Datacentre services supplier Equinix gives its top three tips for apprenticeship selection

Equinix, provides datacentre services, operating 90 datacentres worldwide, and is taking on two apprentices on 5 September in a four-year "Electrotechnical" programme to grow the team.

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

  • The students had a basic background in electronic technical studies and we reviewed all CVs prior to interview. We asked some simple questions on voltage of power supplies and whether they had heard of Ohm's Law.
  • We also asked questions about their interests and aspirations and also wanted to demonstrate to them that we were interested in them as people not just a candidate.

2. Observe behaviour, understand interests, allow candidates to show their skills at an early stage of the process

  • On hobbies and interests, we were looking for a student with hands-on skills - an interest in making or renovating things.
  • We looked for accountabilities and responsibilities in terms of being part of a group or team.
  • We observed behavioural traits such as physical presentation, articulation and manners.
  • We also asked the students to write to us following the interview to detail why they wanted to join the company and what they thought they could bring to our Equinix team. This gave us an insight into their thoughts on the role, longer term ambitions and an example of their written skills.

3. Identifying the challenging, rewarding and insightful aspects of your recruitment process is important when looking for the perfect candidate


  • It was disappointing that some of the candidates had not researched the company before attending the interview (it was hard not to ask them to go away and come back when they had prepared properly) and some didn't respond to our request for them write to us following the interview.


  • The datacentre tour was an absolute eye-opener for the students. The sheer size of the building, the technology, the back-up generators, the switches - all so extreme compared to a normal commercial and/or domestic environment and offering such fabulous opportunities for the future. The buy-in to the opportunity was immediate.


  • At an early stage of the recruitment process we were despondent about the calibre of the students interviewed and questioned whether we had set our standards too high and felt guilty that our expectations were unattainable for the average student. However, when we finally found the right students, it reinforced our recruitment ethos of recruiting to our philosophy - people with the right skills to perform the role; core standards on behaviour and accountability together with the capability and desire to grow with the business, contributing to the company's success.

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