How can the data centre industry implement the best apprenticeship schemes?

Feb 15, 2023

CyrusOne’s ongoing partnership with UTC Heathrow is a good example of how the industry is supporting the future generation of talent.


Steve Hayward, Senior Director, European Operations at CyrusOne, one of the Digital Futures Programme founding partners, on the benefits of apprenticeships.

The working world and the route to the career ladder is changing. Businesses are starting to understand the impact of new recruitment strategies, with recent data finding 96% of employers with apprentices experienced at least one benefit of taking on apprentices, and most counting at least eight positive aspects.

We are seeing more young people tempted by the idea of learning specific skills straight out of school, rather than taking the typical higher education route, with participation in apprenticeships by those aged 19 and over in 2021/22 seeing an increase of 3.3% on the 2020/21 figure. With this in mind, alongside the ever-present, ongoing skills gap across the industry, how can the data centre industry respond, and not only provide a wider range of apprenticeship schemes, but also provide successful and purpose-led programmes?

Create the perfect apprenticeship environment

It’s disheartening to see recent data showing thousands of employees are quitting their apprenticeships in England every year, due to poor training programmes and onboarding, with nearly half of apprentices failing to complete their courses. It’s vital to provide a structure that provides enough education, support and purpose, from start to finish, in order to keep people engaged and motivated and set them up for success.

As an industry, it is important to ensure that apprenticeship schemes are consistently assessed to provide a successful environment for both new hires and managers and that companies are continuously adapting programmes in order to ensure work aligns with the external industry and developments being made within the market, from new technologies to new ways of learning.

Clarity about the role that apprentices play in the organisation is also integral from the outset, ensuring they understand the impact they’re having and how it fits into the broader company’s goals. There should be a shared understanding of how apprentices will be supported throughout the duration of their placement, and who their go-tos are on the job; a ‘buddy’ system can also help them feel sense of belonging within their team and like they have a direct destination to go when they need help or clarification.

Diversity should be a non-negotiable for success

As we work to entice the next generation into the data centre industry, we must continue to prioritise diversity and inclusion in our recruitment efforts, both for apprenticeships and longer term roles. We need to ensure that people from all walks in life, demographics, ages, genders etc, feel confident that they are welcome, and have the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling and impactful career should they wish to.

With this, diversifying our talent pools and where we look for potential apprentice recruits is important. Reaching out to local communities and schools can help you communicate with the right talent and also looking to other organisations, such as local sports teams or arts groups could prove fruitful for fresh, motivated individuals exploring their career options.

Implementing unconscious bias training within your workforce can also help reduce discrimination and prejudice against certain names, locations or grades when looking at applications to create a fair process. It’s been proven that driving diversity benefits a business internally and externally and will help ensure all outputs and thinking are representative of broader range of perspectives, so it’s key we prioritise this from entry level to the C-Suite.

What’s next?

As we continue to battle against the long-term skills gap across industries, it’s vital that dedicated time and thought is put into ensuring apprenticeships and similar schemes are providing value and setting people up for genuine career success. CyrusOne’s ongoing partnership with University Technical College (UTC Heathrow) and techUK is a good example of how our industry is supporting the future generation of talent, through our implementation of the first Data Centre UTC in the UK. The collaboration involves CyrusOne, among other industry partners, offering teachings, work experience placements and apprenticeship training, and offers a clear path for those looking to join the workforce.

In order to protect the future of important industries across STEM in particular, including the data centre sector, we need to ensure that apprenticeships are quality controlled and held to a set of tangible and measurable standards to ensure they are worthwhile and students want to see them through. What’s more, we need to ensure we’re making the effort and taking the time to demonstrate to our apprentices what an incredible, important industry it is we work in, and get them excited and passionate about their future career and the possibilities ahead of them. I truly hope 2023 is the year the industry starts to take this seriously and we set our young people up for optimum success.

*From an article in Data Centre Review published on 10 February 2023.

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