Russel Poole is managing director of Equinix, which provides datacentre services for financial services, telecoms companies and general enterprises. The company operates 90 datacentres worldwide and is taking on two apprentices on 5 September in a four-year "Electrotechnical" programme to help grow the team.
Equinix's plans to introduce two additional electrotechnical apprentices every two years. Currently, Equinix is considering an operations-based apprenticeship scheme starting next year. This will be for two students. The company is working with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) to determine recognised qualifications in this field.
Commenting on the programme, Poole said: "We have always found it a challenge finding capable people to take on the roles as customer operations technicians and as engineers. We want to grow the team, and we feel there is a lot of wasted talent."
The engineering role concerns how a datacentre operates, covering cooling, provisioning and maintenance schemes, all of which are crucial to ensure servers in the datacentre are operating optimally, with minimum downtime.
Customer operations technicians tend to look after areas like back-up tape changes, server reboots and the cabling that connects servers to the datacentre network.
Poole said: "Generally engineers tend to follow an engineering career track. It takes about five years to become a fully qualified engineer and we offer an industry recognised training path."
Customers operations requires less training. Poole said it offers a good starting point and career path to job roles like team leader, project manger and datacentre manager.
Poole said he took a lot of advice from various sources, including East Berkshire college and Slough council, before embarking on the apprenticeship programme. He considered partnering with organisations but decided it would be best to do create an Equinix apprenticeship programme.
His involvement with East Berkshire College began when Equinix sponsored the college rugby team. This has now developed further with the apprenticeship programme. He said: "Every year there are kids coming out of the college who are bright, enthusiastic, and who don't want to pursue further education."
Pool admits interviewing for the apprenticeships is challenging: "Normally you'd ask what have you done in your career? But all you can do is ask prospective candidates about what they know about the company and how they want to progress their career. You can gauge their approach and what they want out of life."
Two apprentices may not seem a big commitment, but Poole feels it is the right number, giving the apprentices enough hands-on training without over-burdening Equinix staff.
The programme is aimed at under-21-year-olds. He adds: "We tend not to get graduate applicants for these kind of roles." However, the apprenticeship could be a good starting point for a graduates.
Equinix's top three tips for recruiting apprentices
1. Tailor your interview questions to the candidate and the scheme. Do not focus solely on a candidate's previous job roles and education
2. Observe behaviour, understand interests, allow candidates to show their skills at an early stage of the process
3. Identifying the challenging, rewarding and insightful aspects of your recruitment process is important when looking for the perfect candidate
This was first published in August 2011