The digital infrastructure industry is truly global and scaling faster than any other time in history. Bottom line, our community is thriving but there is one consistent theme that threatens our ability to continue to serve this demand. We have a shortage of new, incoming talent.
Vocational schools, colleges, and universities have well-established programs that have been providing an educated workforce to fill job demand since their inception. The issue facing us today is how the digital age has changed that demand. There are many well-established computer science, engineering and business programs aligned with job demand. Schools are filling that pipeline well. The issue with the digital infrastructure industry is that the majority of these schools do not have a full understanding of how the foundational elements fit together to feed the digital age. Any person who initiates a digital action on any device anywhere in the world depends upon the infrastructure components we build and operate. While everyone depends on it, the majority do not know it exists and even fewer understand how it actually works. Worse yet, even fewer know of the rewarding and lucrative career opportunities in this field. Ask anyone on the street what a data center is and you will get raised eyebrows and puzzled looks.
Awareness and corresponding curriculum are lacking. Without this understanding, the schools are at a disadvantage. How can they build or adapt their programs and degrees to address this evolving world if they don’t know what positions are available and how they can prepare their students to enter them?
We decided to take this challenge head on. We established an IM Education Committee focused on three objectives. First, identify current programs that align to our industry and partner with those academic institutions. Second, define our industry job ladders and a heat map of jobs in demand. Third, develop a strategy to educate schools and students about our industry and develop applicable curriculum. We are confident we can help these institutions align their programs and students to the demand and start increasing that pipeline.
Unfortunately, while this should address the longer term issue, it will take time to implement and will not solve our immediate problem. We need to increase the pipeline now. Further compounding this problem is the lack of diversity. From a gender perspective, less than 10% of our industry is female. That means we need to increase industry exposure with the younger generation and provide incentives to help them enter it.
In 2017, we established the IM Womens group to tackle the gender gap. In 2018, we established the IM scholarship fund with our 50/50 strategy – e.g., our goal is to award half of these scholarships to women. I am proud to say that to date half our scholarships have been awarded to women.