Trades That Are Dominating the Data Center Workforce

October 03, 2019 by Midlothian Economic Development


As the advanced technology employed in data centers continues to evolve, the demand for specific trades and skills that can keep up with the changing landscape increases at an equal rate. 

Data centers need trained hands and skilled minds to operate the technology and efficiently manage the facilities that aim to increase optimization, which is why they are beginning to invest in more skilled personnel to maintain a competitive edge. 

The 2018 AFCOM State of the Data Center report revealed that 69 percent of industry respondents claimed they’ve had to substantially increase investment in data center IT and facility personnel within the past three years. Further, 71 percent said they will have to continue to increase investment in related industry talent over the next three years. 

This leads to the question: What specific trades are in demand?

Here is a breakdown of the top trades that are currently dominating the data center workforce: 

Cloud Technicians

Similar to how big data is the new sliced bread for businesses across the world, cloud capabilities are what slices, or more so manages, that big data bread. The increasing amount of data flooding into centers every day, along with how crucial the effective management of data is becoming for strategic decisions, is making IT personnel with specific cloud knowledge and training imperative for success.  

Underneath the umbrella of cloud technicians are a variety of positions:

  • Software engineer 
  • Cloud engineer
  • Developer
  • Systems administrator
  • Consultant
  • Systems engineer
  • Network engineer

That being said, the industry is reaching a point where most IT or engineering trades are expected to be skilled in the cloud and infrastructure; it has become the main requirement to be hired at a data center. While many trades in the data industry might not have the term “cloud” in the title, cloud computing is a necessary skill. 

Facilities Technicians

Considered to be the masters of the mechanics, facilities technicians are responsible for the machine — that is a data center — to run as smoothly as possible. Specifically in regards to improving efficiency, ensuring safety standards are constantly met, identifying problems and their solutions, and developing creative approaches for new processes. Without this trade in the industry, all of the moving parts would crash together. 

Effective facilities technicians have a thorough knowledge of all electrical and mechanical systems that are used in data centers — not to physically operate them, but to ensure that they are running properly. This includes feeders, transformers, generators, switchgear, UPS systems, ATS/STS units, PDU/PMM units, chillers, air handling units, and CRAC units. 

Facilities technicians operate, monitor and support physical facility conditions so the rest of the team can execute their jobs successfully and produce results for the data center.

Center Technicians 

Technicians are a very important profession in the industry, with each specific role serving an integral aspect for the data center facility. The leading types of technicians in data centers are network administrators, systems engineers, and storage engineers. 

There’s been industry concern that technician-level jobs are an endangered species due to the movement of data center workloads to the cloud but that is not the case. The U.S. unemployment rate for network administrators in 2018 was 1.1 percent — proving this type of position is still in high demand. While the duties of data center technicians are widely different now than they were five years ago, the demand for these workers hasn’t faded.

Technicians are dominant in this industry for a reason, they are seeing the changes in technology and processes and adapting their skills to it. They are reskilling to become specialists in infrastructure and hardware so that they are confident with cloud products and other new systems.

Operations/Controls Engineers

In data centers, along with most businesses in the tech industry, engineers are everything. Not only do they keep all infrastructures and technological systems running properly, but they are indispensable to any data center team.

Even though certain types of engineers are considered technicians, operations engineers and controls engineers are very specific trades in the industry and require advanced training and skills. These engineers ensure that any mechanical or technical issue that arises is addressed and fixed promptly so there are no outstanding losses — whether it’s in time, cost, or data.

This trade in the data and tech industry is the key to improving efficiency and keeping up with constant changes. These engineers combine creativity with knowledge to recommend necessary changes, perform maintenance, and optimize the facility. 

Program Managers

No data center team can operate successfully without a strong and experienced program manager. This is one of the main reasons why even though this industry is constantly changing, management skills will always be in demand. 

No matter how advanced or automated the technology used in data centers becomes, skilled people will always be needed and program managers are experts in overseeing people along with the technical and mechanical equipment used. 

Program managers keep the big picture in mind at all times while also diving into unique and specific IT challenges, leading complex engineering projects, and supporting all related personnel. 

Trading Up

It’s no question the entire structure of data centers is re-shaping to support new technology being introduced. It’s also no question that the demand for specific trades is at an all-time high. 

Even with increased automation and highly advanced technology, technicians with cloud knowledge are more coveted than ever. Additionally, skilled engineers, managers, and individuals with IT skills are being hired every day in data centers across the country. Today’s data technology might be powerful, but it still needs the support of skilled hands to efficiently and successfully run it. 

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