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Tackling the UK Skills Shortage

Date: 6th April 2017
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Digital disruption, the fourth industrial revolution, whatever you call it, businesses, customers and markets around the globe are all feeling the impact of rapid evolution and innovation in the digital space. Naturally this having a significant impact on technology – which we’ll discuss in more detail next month – but, there’s also a more human consideration, in the form of a growing digital skills shortage.  The industry needs to tackle this head on to combat the decline in new STEM specialists.

Service boom, skill decline

With the boom in digital services we are seeing an unprecedented increase in the amount of data uploaded, stored and accessed online. Cisco predicts that by 2020 internet traffic will reach 2.3 Zettabytes (ZB) per year or 193 Exabyes (EB) – equivalent to 193 billion gigabytes – per month.

This carries with it an ever-increasing need for data centres. As a result, we have seen the accelerated development of new server technology and supporting infrastructure, as businesses and data centre operators strive to create more capacity within their existing data centre footprint. With new technology, and the associated demands for development, refurbishment and long-term maintenance of the UK data centre estate, the issue of skill is now more inextricably linked to performance than ever.

Recently we’ve seen Microsoft moving towards micro data centres and large manufacturers like Schneider responding with their “Smart Bunker” solution.  For the teams here this is our bread and butter and our consultants and engineers continually train to stay on top of the latest market developments.

However, attracting, training and retaining skills is an issue the sector has traditionally struggled with. Gartner estimates that in Europe alone, the skills deficit will lead to a shortage of 90,000 IT professionals by 2020. Engineering UK’s 2016 report claimed that this shortage in the technical and engineering field will be even higher – the UK will need to find 182,000 people with engineering skills every year to 2022 to simply meet requirements.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills attributes the wider shortage to a reduced number of students studying IT and technology subjects. Within the critical environments sector, we find that this is compounded by a lack of awareness of the data centre sector as a career route – even among those who have chosen engineering subjects.

Future-proofing the industry

So what can we do as an industry to try and combat the current skills shortage and drive awareness for the future?

At Keysource we understand the importance of investing not only in our consultants and engineers but all of our team members. We offer company sponsored training and fully-subsidised education as a benefit to make our teams specialists in their field. In the last year alone we’ve subsidised employees’ undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, provided over 200 hours of professional training, and mentored six staff as they reached Chartered status in their fields.

We have recently begun the roll out of a new Apprenticeship Scheme, which aims to support young people through a combination of workplace experience and training, as well as classroom sessions to drive the next generation of engineers and technical workers. As part of our wider aim of attracting talent to the sector, Keysource will also be implementing a new Critical Environment Graduate Scheme and will be attending a number of graduate and higher education careers fairs thought out the year in order to try and drive awareness of the critical environments sector.

Up-skilling our engineers enables us to add value to our customers by reducing the number of technicians needed on site to carry out works. It also makes Keysource a great place to work. We invest in our team’s training and long-term professional development.

We recognise that customer service is as much about our people as it is SLAs. Investing to attract and retain the best talent in the industry is not just about future-proofing our business, it’s about ensuring best value for customers and supporting the wider development of the industry.

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