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UK’s first datacentre-focused University Technical College course makes its debut

Some of the datacentre sector’s biggest players have pooled their resources to help launch the UK’s first industry-specific University Technical College course

The UK’s first datacentre-focused university technical college (UTC) course has gone live to pave the way for 14-to-19 year-olds to start pursuing a career in the digital infrastructure sector.

The course will be run through West London-based education provider UTC Heathrow, which is a government-funded school that provides technical and scientific courses for learners aged 14-to-19 that want to become engineers, scientists and technicians in various fields.

UTC Heathrow has agreed to redesign its curriculum to include areas that will allow students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a technical career in the datacentre sector through the delivery of its Digital Futures Programme.

The course curriculum has been designed in collaboration with various members of the hyperscale cloud and colocation community, including CyrusOne, Virtus Data Centres, Ark Data Centres, Amazon Web Services and Yondr, and educators including CNet Training.

Other contributors to the project include real estate consultancy CBRE and tech trade body TechUK.

As well as shaping the curriculum, these partners will be expected to deliver course content as well as provide work experience placements and apprenticeship opportunities for the course participants.

Up to 100 students aged 14 will be permitted to join the programme, along with the 150 already following UTC Heathrow’s Level 3 engineering curriculum.

Read more about the datacentre skills gap

On completing the curriculum, students can expect to exit the programme with a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering.

“This partnership is a first for the industry, and will be the first time that mainstream education and the datacentre sector are working together to provide a clearly defined and repeatable path into the sector,” the organisations said in a statement.

“Not only will this partnership increase the number of students with diverse STEM skills to meet the industry’s technical needs for domestic talent, but it also will raise awareness and position the sector as a career destination of choice.”

According to data published by datacentre resiliency think tank the Uptime Institute earlier this year, the global demand for datacentre staff is on course to increase from two million in 2019 to nearly 2.3m by 2025.

Filling these roles is likely to be a challenge in Western Europe, the organisation warned, due the fact that many datacentre workers are nearing retirement age and the demand for server farm capacity is soaring across the globe.

“More on-the-job training and sector-specific education will be key for the sector to meet future talent demand,” the Uptime Institute said.

Skills crisis

Steve Hayward, senior director of European operations at CyrusOne, described the skills crisis blighting the datacentre industry as “critical”, and said finding ways to address it are “imperative” to ensuring the industry has the skilled people it needs to safeguard its continued growth.

“The time is now for organisations to get creative on ways to both maintain their current workforce and help grow their talent pool for the future,” he said.  

“We are looking forward to seeing the opportunities that this partnership will provide and hope to see this initiative replicated across other UTCs around the UK.” 

Andrew Stevens, president and CEO of CNet Training, added: “The skills gap is not getting any easier for the digital infrastructure industry. We all need to work together and do it in a way that will make a real difference at a time when young people need inspiration, support and the opportunity to secure a career with huge opportunities.

“This is a problem that the industry can only tackle head-on by working collectively; we need to showcase the amazing career opportunities in the datacentre sector and help young people to prepare for and access them,” he added.

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