New unique interdisciplinary collaboration to mature young specialists for hungry data center industry

Fredericia Maskinmesterskole, UCL and the data center industry launched a new teaching course on Monday, which will prepare future IT specialists and marine engineers for a future career in the computer industry and ensure a qualified workforce for a growing industry.

Date: 09.09.2020 - Autour: Mark Lodberg

International tech giants such as Facebook and Google are well on their way to making their entrance in Denmark and large data centers are springing up around the country. In Fredericia, Google is building a new data center at the cost of 4.6 billion kroner. With the large investments also comes a desire for a qualified workforce to operate and maintain the data centers.

That is why Fredericia Maskinmesterskole and UCL together with representatives from the data center industry, who counts the datacenter industry’s association DDI, Google, DataCenterGruppen and NNIT, are collaborating on an elective course aimed at students in the study programs computer science, IT technology and marine engineering in Odense, Vejle and Fredericia.

Collaboration in the making since 2018

The collaboration, which has been in the making since 2018, launched on Monday with a kick-off event at Fredericia Maskinmesterskole, where students and the industry met one other. At Monday's start up, the students received exciting presentations from leading data center specialists in Denmark, including Martin Jeppesen from NNIT and Arni Jonsson, head of the upcoming Google data center in Fredericia.

And Jens Færgemand Mikkelsen, director of resources at Fredericia Maskinmesterskole, is pleased.

- One of the biggest challenges for the data center industry is the lack of qualified labor, and therefore we are naturally happy to be able to start this collaboration on a new elective course between our two educational institutions and the data center industry.

Building a bridge between disciplines

In addition to the academic competencies that the students acquire in the elective course, Jens Færgemand Mikkelsen also hopes that they will be able to build a bridge and strengthen the understanding of each other's work across the academic disciplines.

- One of the things we want with this elective is to work with the cultural side of things and try to get operators and data people to work together.

And it is precisely the collaboration between different disciplines that makes the project interesting, says Arnth B. Nielsen, who in addition to being sales manager in the DataCenter Group, is also chairman of the Skills group in the industry association DDI.

- I think this is the way forward. If we can put these 3 disciplines together and give them an understanding of how to run a data center, then there is a huge perspective in this. For that is exactly what the operators of the data centers are waiting for. It is a unique process and there is great focus from educational institutions and operators throughout Europe.

Students face international opportunities

One of the students who has signed up for the teaching course is Katrine Hansen, who is in the 8th semester of the marine engineering program. She hopes that the specialization in the data center industry can open the door to an international career.

- I think it could be exciting to be able to work in one of the very large companies within IT, such as Google, Facebook or Amazon. It is a great opportunity to become part of an international workplace and get out into the world.

Solar cell systems from Google used for the course

Back in 2019, Fredericia Maskinmesterskole received almost DKK 700,000 from Google for the establishment of a photovoltaic system on the roof of the school's building on Købmagergade. A facility that in many ways resembles a data center, and which can therefore now be used for the practical part of the teaching process, where students from the 3 programs must practice collaborating and testing their different disciplines in maintenance and monitoring of the facility.

The first steps have also been taken to build a small-scale data center at Fredericia Maskinmesterskole. This is the first time that a data center is being built in Denmark for educational use, and thus it is a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience during their education. DataCenterGruppen is the main supplier of the project, which is supported by Google with 100,000 euros and a similar amount from other companies in the data center industry.

And it was precisely the chance to be able to work hands on that attracted Michael Nielsen, who is studying to become a computer scientist at UCL in Vejle.

- Working with this stuff on paper is one thing and you can form some ideas about the work. But to be allowed to participate in a project like this and get your hands dirty and be allowed to interact with the different branches within the area is another thing and an opportunity you would not get otherwise. So that's great.

Kaj Bromose, a teacher at the computer science programme in Vejle, shares the students' enthusiasm.

- The opportunities that students get from participating are multifaceted. There is the clear advantage that in practice they are put in a situation of having to deal with a domain they do not know. And being interesting to a data center industry that is growing wildly is a big advantage.

The training course runs until November. Along the way, students work in cross-cutting teams and solve real-life tasks and receive feedback from representatives from the data center industry.