Switch helps expand job training in Las Vegas

Data storage company's new facility could have similar effect in West Michigan

A Switch SUPERNAP Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Feb. 9, 2016)

LAS VEGAS (WOOD) — Switch and the clients it will bring to a new West Michigan facility will obviously need to hire network supervisors, software testers and systems engineers. But many of the jobs Switch will need to fill have less to do with computers and more to do with keeping the place up and running.

The good news is most of the programs that train people for those jobs are already in place in Grand Rapids.

A birds-eye view of the former Steelcase pyramid in Gaines Township. (Jan. 8, 2016)
A birds-eye view of the former Steelcase pyramid in Gaines Township. (Jan. 8, 2016)

Switch plans to develop a cloud storage data center at the old Steelcase pyramid property in Gaines Township, south of Grand Rapids. The company has a similar center in its home state of Nevada.

24 Hour News 8 got an inside look at the program helps train people for Nevada’s emerging tech industry.

“There’s more to it than just computer and number crunching and data crunching,” said Dr. Michael Spangler, dean of the College of Southern Nevada School of Advanced and Applied Technologies.

For example, heating and cooling systems are vital to protect data center servers.

“Switch wouldn’t exist without air conditioning,” said Rodney Nestmann, who runs the Industrial Technologies Program at CSN.

That need has helped CSN, the state’s largest college, expand its programs. The school had about 70 students in the air conditioning program when Dr. Spangler took the job less than a decade ago.

“We’re over 300 now,” Spangler said. “That kind of growth is consistent with what we see in the demand of the industry.”

“When Switch comes to us and says we want people to learn these certain skills, why then, we take that information and we run with it,” Nestmann said.

It’s not just keeping the AC running. Switch needs people to handle IT and physical security and electricians to keep power flowing. Many of those jobs require a two-year associate degree.

“What we tell our incoming students is that when you finish that degree, that associate’s degree in air conditioning, if you’re not making $50,000, you’re not trying,” Spangler said.

Officials at Grand Rapids Community College say that Switch, working through economic development agency The Right Place, Inc. and West Michigan Works!, has already been working with GRCC about offering the needed courses. Julie Parks, director of GRCC’s Workforce Training program, told 24 Hour News 8 most of those programs are already in place.

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