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Data center certification, facility management skills are hot in the job market

Two years ago, Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. started the Institute for Data Center Professionals, a certification and education program for data center managers. SearchDataCenter.com caught up with Roger Norton, Dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics Marist College to talk about, education, career advancement and the data center job market.

Roger Norton, dean of the school of computer science and mathematics at Marist College talks about the data center...

job market, data center training and certification, as well as facilities managment and CDCP.

What is the demographic the students in Marist's Institute for Data Center Professionals?
Primarily, students are looking to advance their careers -- professional development. The majority of these folks are working in the operations side. A lot have an associate's degree in data processing. Most of the people have worked in a data center for multiple years and are between their thirties and fifties. We have very few young people going through our program.

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Is attracting young people to technology programs as big a problem in the U.S. as we've been hearing?
The decline is worse than is even being projected. It's a major problem. I just came back from China where it's totally the opposite. I truly believe that the U.S. is going to lose its competitive advantage.

At Marist, our big majors are communications, management and psychology. They go off and make $25,000. People come out of our [computer science] programs making $50,000 to $75,000 with a bachelor's degree.

What does it take to become a Certified Data Center Professional?
The CDCP certification is made up of six associate certifications. It takes two years to go through the coursework. Less than 50% of enrolled students complete the entire program. However, along the way they've gotten a bunch of associate certificates.

Most of the people going through the program are not currently responsible for the areas they are studying. We try to cover all the things you need to know to move up in the data center. A lot of our students hate taking courses in software development. They may not be application programmers, but you need to know what [the developers] are doing and the challenges they have. 

What is the most popular area of study?
The facility management segment is the most popular area. No educational institutions cover advanced facility management [in the data center]. Some of the other areas we cover, like networking, security, process management -- those are available at a community college. 

But who does facility management? 
Lots of people doing facility management in the data center are self-taught. 

Is there job market demand for certified data center professionals?
Right now there is a major need for people in data centers. There's the graying of the workforce. Plus there is a high demand for people with this type of background. A lot of data center managers are self taught -- people that came in working at night in operations. There needs to be some path for them to progress in an organization. Who do you partner with to develop the curriculum?
We partner with AFCOM. They were involved with the initial development of this program. We had a different picture of the people working in data centers. We were thinking they probably had degrees in computer science. AFCOM was able to give us a different profile and we restructured the program quite a bit.

For instance, we assumed people working in the data center had a degree in computer science. It turns out there are lots of people in the data center that don't have that background -- people that don't have a degree but had multiple years of experience. So we now offer an introduction to computer programming. Otherwise, we would never have included that course. They find that introduction to programming is one of the toughest courses. Marist recently added a mainframe certification to your offerings. 

Has that taken off?
Enrollment has been extremely high for our newest certification, "On-Demand with enterprise systems" certificate for IBM mainframe computing. Funding for that program came from NY State and IBM. Because of our connection with IBM, we can reach out to its high end customers -- Verizon, UPS, Wal-Mart and that's where our students come from. We have a new group of students starting in September and we've reached the maximum amount of students. We're trying to figure out if we want to open up another group. That certification consists of three associate certifications. Because of the funding, scholarships are available from NY State and IBM for 50% of the cost of tuition and better. 

Any advice for someone looking to advance their data center career?
We just installed a new data center at Marist. The biggest problems were really related to facility management type issues. Power and cooling are becoming so critical in the data center and there are very few people who understand those things. That's an area where there needs to be more expertise. And also security -- that really boosts you up in terms of your employment opportunities.

Let us know what you think about the article; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor.

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