APC expands grad program for skills shortage

APC expands grad program for skills shortage

The company has opted to grow its employee’s skillset internally as it struggles to find suitable candidates

American Power Conversion (APC) by Schneider Electric has expanded its TAFE graduate program, Encompass, to include skills the company has struggled to find during the ICT skills shortage.

The program enables graduates to gain both external and internal on-the-job training in each stage of the data centre lifecycle, including planning, building and operations. It includes 13 different modules with each providing both theoretical and practical training and graduates will also complete external tertiary qualifications during the course.

Since its 2010 launch, the program has brought on eight graduates which are at various stages in the three-year course, despite the initial commitment to take on 25 graduates over five years.

APC director of services, Darren Burnnand, told Computerworld Australia the company had introduced components on data centre infrastructure management and network integration to the program as it was difficult to find candidates with those particular skills.

“It’s an emerging part of our business as well as from an industry perspective so it’s early investment to support that part of the business,” Burnnand said.

APC pacific sales director, Andrew Kirker, said although trends such as Cloud computing and the rise of mobile devices has driven the ICT industry of late, the skills shortage has meant it is harder to find new staff with specific skills around mission critical applications and uptime.

“Our business is perhaps a little more niche than many, and whenever you’ve got anything a little bit niche that’s when you tend to have more challenges finding people,” Kirker said.

“It’s not niche in that the skills aren’t transferrable but niche in that we want people to have that understanding.

“There’s two ways of approaching the shortage: You either grow your own people from within, which involves things like the Encompass program, or you look for people that have a mindset for mission critical applications.

“We have a strategic workforce plan that involves sharing talent globally between the business, growing our talent from within and working with external parties like the University of Sydney for a graduate program.”

According to Kirker, the organisation has struggled to fill a number of vacant roles, particularly in Western Australia, as it is more challenging to attract people to in the vast area.

Under the program, APC also aims to ensure the graduates also understand the business side of the company so they can understand the business impact should something go wrong.

“I think they get a respect for the business side of things so they’re not just service engineers we’re building, they’re individuals that understand the business environment being data centres,” Burnnand said.

“It’s very different being a power or cooling engineer working on a building where if the air con goes off, people get hot and sweaty whereas in the data centre if you make a mistake the business impact is significant.

“It’s a different mindset and so we’re trying to produce engineers that have an understanding of a business mission critical environment which is a key competency.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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More about American Power ConversionAndrew Corporation (Australia)APC by Schneider ElectricetworkTAFEUniversity of SydneyUniversity of Sydney

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