It is no secret that the entire U.S. government – at the local, state, and federal levels – is in the midst of a historic period of digital transformation, as government agencies continue to modernize their IT infrastructures and migrate their network systems and services to the cloud. At the heart of this unprecedented wave of government modernization and innovation are the technology integrators who construct and outfit the data centers in charge of powering the digital solutions and applications which agencies rely on to function.
And though the need for technology integration services is at an all-time high, this emerging industry is currently facing a workforce whose growth is not matching the pace of demand – driving data center outfitters to creatively reevaluate their approaches to attracting, training, and retaining the next generation workforce who will be responsible for facilitating this digitally transformative era.
“To bridge the expertise and skills gap almost all high school graduate candidates will have, technology integrators have transformed their recruitment efforts to meet applicants where they are – no matter their level of experience. They then place them on career paths that will grow and develop them as they progress within the company.”
One workforce population that technology integrators view as a solution to this labor shortage is high school graduates who choose to forgo pursuing a four-year degree prior to beginning their professional careers.
Traditionally, high school students who enter the workforce immediately after graduation often find the path to a well-paying, skilled career to be a viable one. However, the road is almost always long and challenging and requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and perseverance. And, in some circumstances, it can take half of their professional careers to attain that high-paying position they desire. Technology integrators are looking to change that outlook.
But – without a college degree or college transcript – what are technology integrators looking for when recruiting these individuals? And what systems are in place to give them the skills and abilities they need to succeed on the job?
Soft Skills and Skills Training
Though the technology integration industry is extremely technical and requires a meticulously crafted skillset, companies are realizing it is simply unrealistic for high school graduates to have the knowledge and experience required to perform at the outset of being hired.
As a result, many data center outfitters do not require applicants to have a college degree nor any technical experience in the field. The only requirements and characteristics they are looking for in applicants are soft skills. Candidates must be trainable, have passion, and have the desire to build a career founded on accountability, collaboration, and respect.
But soft skills aren’t the only skills needed to work for a technology integrator. Actual technical skills are necessary as well.
“One workforce population that technology integrators view as a solution to this labor shortage is high school graduates who choose to forgo pursuing a four-year degree prior to beginning their professional careers.”
To bridge the expertise and skills gap almost all high school graduate candidates will have, technology integrators have transformed their recruitment efforts to meet applicants where they are – no matter their level of experience. They then place them on career paths that will grow and develop them as they progress within the company. All technical skills that are required to perform on the job are no longer expected before hiring. Instead, companies are now looking internally to rear the next generation of technology integrators, investing heavily in mentorship training and professional development – beginning on day one.
For example, at E2 Optics, we have created a robust career pathing program that enables high school graduates with no degree and zero experience to grow, learn, and work their way up to skilled and high-paying design engineering and project management roles in the company.
But even though the opportunities are ready and available for the taking, companies are facing recruitment challenges that stem from the lack of industry awareness among high school graduates. Raising the question, how can you recruit individuals who don’t even know this industry and its career opportunities exist?
Awareness is Key
It is undeniable that today’s high school graduates are more connected and digitally plugged-in than any generation before them. But their heavy reliance on apps and mobile devices in their daily lives hasn’t proved to be enough to bridge the knowledge gap between the technologies they use and the digital and physical infrastructures which power them. As a result, well-qualified high school graduates are passing by unknown, high-paying career opportunities in an emerging industry that is quite literally laying the groundwork for a ubiquitous and digitally connected society.
“Traditionally, high school students who enter the workforce immediately after graduation often find the path to a well-paying, skilled career to be a viable one. However, the road is almost always long and challenging and requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and perseverance.”
If we – as technology integrators – want to successfully fulfill our commitment to facilitating this historical, digitally transformative societal shift, we must come together and tackle our industry awareness challenges head-on. This requires data center outfitters – and their competitors – to unite, collaborate with school districts and workforce organizations in their communities, and engage graduates – right out of high school – about the high-paying career opportunities our industry has to offer them.
Once we connect and engage with these students, it is our responsibility to then identify candidates who have the soft skills required to thrive as technology integrators, set them up on a career path, and monitor them as they progress throughout their professional journey. Once this generation understands what’s behind their connected world – and that there is an entire high-paying industry waiting to welcome them into a field in which they will have a lifelong career – then we will see our industry’s workforce supply begin to match the overwhelming global demand.
Tammey Stokley is the Corporate Recruiting Manager of E2 Optics, an award-winning, women-owned low voltage and infrastructure systems integrator, and one of the fastest-growing low voltage companies in the U.S. She has more than 20 years of experience in recruiting. She has been married for 11 years, and has one daughter, one granddaughter, and two great-grandchildren.