The data centre and digital infrastructure industry is currently suffering from a severe skills shortage – in large part due to decreasing number of students picking STEM related subjects for A-Level. This is being exacerbated, as highlighted in recent findings by Uptime, by up to half of data centre engineers looking at retiring in the next three years.
Considering that the demand for these engineers is expected to continue to soar in the near future, this growing digital skills gap presents a major problem for the entire data centre industry. Industry leaders need to be proactive and work together to solve an issue that will inevitably hinder the growth of the entire sector by a significant amount.
This is why in 2021 LMG decided to partner with the Digital Futures programme at UTC Heathrow, a STEM school and sixth form in Northwood for 14 to 18-year-olds. Digital Futures is an award-winning programme that aims to provide young people with the opportunity to gain training and experience to start a career in data centre and digital infrastructure engineering.
LMG saw this programme as a fantastic opportunity to both give students the tools to pursue careers in the data centre industry and to help secure the future of this sector.
In the first year, LMG supported the programme by running a number of workshops and engineering challenge days. One such workshop for year 10 students challenged them to come up with efficient data centre design solutions for WiFi and CCTV networks. Both of these challenges were based on recent projects that LMG had completed for a data centre located in the Thames Valley.
The workshop proved to be a massive success as the challenges presented were extremely effective in engaging the minds of the students and capturing their interest and enthusiasm in data centre design.
The ongoing urgency to train young people to have the skills and knowledge this industry needs and the initial feedback and response the students had to this workshop has prompted LMG to significantly ramp up its involvement in the Digital Futures programme in 2023.
What’s new for 2023?
This year our attention will shift towards students who are completing their Engineering BTECs. As part of our expanded role, LMG are introducing new team members to the programme and increasing our time commitment to the programme by 50%. We will also be taking on 17 students for a combination of virtual and physical work experience.
LMG is also taking the lead on the Digital Futures BTEC Unit 2 assignment. This vital unit of the course focuses on the practical component of safe working in data centres. An introductory lesson has already been delivered – led by LMG’s Health and Safety consultant, Kevin Kerin. It was an in insightful session for the students to make sure they understood this important aspect of delivering engineering solutions. The positive response of the students has meant it’s been a great start to the new academic year and LMG’s increased involvement.
The Digital Futures programme – and similar initiatives – represent an incredibly valuable effort not only to enhance the students’ education and open doors for careers, but also as a huge step towards closing the digital skills gap issue that the wider industry is facing today.
It’s clear that the skills shortage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Which is why LMG is expanding its efforts in 2023 and beyond. Let’s hope that this incredibly successful programme can help tackle the skills shortage before it’s too late.