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Open to all, time for the data centre sector to end the skills issue

Marc Garner, VP, Secure Power Division, UK&I at Schneider Electric, discusses how the data centre sector could end the skills shortage it’s been facing, once and for all. 

As the electric and digital worlds converge, talent acquisition and team management are among the biggest challenges faced by data centre and technology businesses today. According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, ‘The single highest cause of stress is being short of staff’, and this has become a major issue. The survey found that the UK’s tech industry is experiencing the highest skills shortage for more than a decade, with almost two thirds of CIOs (64%) reporting a shortfall of talent. As technologies such as edge computing, AI and 5G continue to evolve, identifying and attracting new skills into the industry should be simple, but often, it can mean dispelling myths that have built up over time.

Efforts to expand the talent pool through diversity agendas are making inroads and traditional biases are fast being overcome, but in the era of digital transformation, more needs to be done to address the endemic skills shortage. This, however, is beginning to raise new questions, asking what are the best tactics for team recruiting, retaining and nurturing talent?

Furthermore, are diversity and inclusion efforts proving effective at bridging the skills gap, and when it comes to attracting new recruits, does the data centre industry have an image problem?

As a culturally diverse and global industry, our sector is open to engineers, marketers and salespeople from all walks of life. So why are we experiencing such a skills shortage, and what can be done to attract the next generation of talent?

New perspectives

In 2020, people entering the world of employment are often seeking more than a 30 year career in return for a steady salary and pension. Increasingly young people (though not exclusively younger people) state that they want to become part of something bigger than themselves and will examine prospective employers with questions such as, “does this organisation relate to me and do they share my values?”

One such individual is Thomas Morgan, a mechanical engineer who joined Schneider Electric’s Secure Power Division as part of the graduate programme intake in 2016. Recently named within Data Economy’s ’30 under 30’ list for leading talents in the data centre sector, Thomas was first attracted to the company because of its core message around sustainability, energy efficiency and reducing impact on the environment.

As a business, today Schneider Electric is committed to improving energy consumption and reducing CO2 emissions across all areas of our business. This includes reaching carbon neutrality across all of our company sites by 2025; goals to achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2030; and most importantly, to have net-zero emissions throughout our entire supply chain by 2050.

Thomas knew that after graduating from Sheffield University he wanted to start a career in tech and what he found at Schneider Electric was a role that would help him advance his business knowledge while utilising all of his technical expertise.

In his first job as a Tender Engineer, Thomas was provided with exposure to customer facing teams. Here he began to build his business skills.

The role is technically detailed and contractually complex, involving learning and sharing of engineering and business knowledge– something he relishes as a challenge. As an engineer it presented the opportunity to learn about customer needs and the complex financial aspects of large-scale capital investments.

From there, Thomas moved into a new customer team servicing a major client, eventually leading them to successfully secure a major tender win with a value of more than €13m. It was this success that helped Thomas to be named as one of Data Economy’s ‘30 under 30’ people to watch in the data centre industry and he is someone I’m proud to have worked with directly.

As well as enjoying business success Thomas is a passionate advocate of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a career to young people and expanding the opportunities to as broad a catchment as possible. He regularly hosts events and presents on the importance of inclusion, diversity and balance, making STEM available to everyone.

Core values

Both within the business and through his extracurricular activities Thomas reflects Schneider Electric’s core values, which are our company’s platform for success. These span a customer-first experience, daring to disrupt, embracing cultural differences, taking ownership, embracing an open mind and committing to learn every day.

As a business, we know there is much work to be done to make technology available to all, we believe access to energy is a basic human right and that life should be on for everyone, everywhere.

But to address the skills shortage within the technology industry itself, our goal is to build a culture where skills, ambition and application are rewarded equally. One where the industry stands for advancement for all no matter their culture, religion, race or gender.

If you are studying as an undergraduate or a recently qualified post-graduate and are looking to build a fulfilling and empowering career in technology, energy management and sustainability, click here to find out more about the Schneider Electric graduate programme.

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