The latest installment in our ever-popular DCD>Talks series focused on overcoming the skills gap that has engulfed the data center industry since the pandemic, and the co-challenge of regional regeneration. DCD's Emma Brookes sat down with Ben Cranham, COO at Pulsant, who began by summing up the problem:

“The great resignation at the end of Covid is when people got to the end of lockdown and decided to change their relationship with work. For some that meant working from home, for some that meant giving up work, which led to the war for talent, where all of a sudden you had organizations realizing that there wasn't the same availability of talent in the workplace.”

Although we in the West are feeling the skills shortage acutely, the Far East has seen a significant uptick in skilled labor, thanks to investments in training:

“Look at Malaysia and Singapore, where they've managed to grow their engineering workforce over quite a short period. Malaysia completely redesigned its engineering syllabus around 20 years ago, made it more focused on the modern workplace, and put great state funding in there, so therefore they were able to produce more engineers.

“Singapore has never been afraid to import talent into the country and has provided a low-cost, high-quality engineering education. So where economists have that opportunity, training, and retraining have to be the focus for economies like the UK, where we've had high unemployment for a long period. We don't have enough people going into those technology and engineering education paths.”

For Cranham, the secret is tapping into the underrepresented parts of the labor market:

“We must be drawing from the biggest pool of talent possible. The biggest area where the industry has a real challenge around diversity is in bringing women into the industry. It's just not good enough that we kind of leave that as a problem for tomorrow. Another area is neurodiversity, which, if you don't think about it, can present a challenge. But if it's considered, then it does open up an opportunity, and then the third area that I'm thinking about more is getting employees who are ex-armed forces.”

Education is another issue – not just on skills, but on understanding what a data center is: “I think there's a kind of obligation on us to demystify data centers a bit. Our CFO tells a story about taking some graduate analysts around one of our data sites in Reading, and one says, ‘Ah, so this is where the cloud is.’ It's that kind of lack of understanding perhaps around what our data centers are about.”

At Pulsant, great results have been achieved by working with local educational institutions: “One of the advantages of being a local data center provider is we built really good relationships with local education organizations, with the ability to develop learning careers framework for apprentices and graduates. Having those relationships allows us to communicate the kinds of people that we're looking for and what that data center career looks like, but also gives us a good understanding of what it is that we're going to need to provide to people coming into roles.”

You can find out more about how Pulsant is bringing new skills to the local population and how the rise of the Edge could be the key to unlocking that potential by watching the full DCD>Talk here.