Grant Overview

Data Center Operations Program Development (DCO PD) is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program (Award #2300978). The project seeks to support colleges across the country in developing programs, courses and content to increase capacity for data center education.

During project year 1 - 6, regional fellows will serve as an advisory cohort, providing formative and summative feedback on the structure of the fellowship.

During project years 2 – 3, cohorts of 8 fellows per year will be recruited from large and emerging US data center markets through collaboration with the ACTE. Fellows will complete training at NOVA’s DCO training facility and then complete their externship near their home institution.

The economic activities of enterprises that rely on Internet services require a significant data center infrastructure to ensure continuity of services. In turn, data centers require significant capital investment, ongoing operational maintenance, and the technical workforce capacity to support various center operations. As data center capacity continues to expand in the Northern Virginia (NOVA) region and the country at large, a trained engineering technology workforce is necessary to meet the growing demand for skilled workers.

At present, community and technical colleges lack the instructional capacity to offer programs and coursework to support this rapidly emerging technological field. This project intends to address the lack of workforce issue by developing a sustained professional development program. The proposed Data Center Operations Program Development (DCO PD) has the potential to prepare engineering technology faculty to integrate DCO skills into their teaching practice, conduct national outreach to administrators and educators, and establish professional networks with data centers and their operators regionally and nationally.

The project has three primary components. First is a sustained professional development fellowship for faculty, including a three-day workshop series at NOVA Community College's data center training facility and a five-day externship at an operational data center. Second is an awareness and recruitment campaign at national conferences including project presentations, data center site visits, and hands-on skills workshops. Third, and finally, is a data center education digital resource hub serving as a repository of curriculum, industry contacts, career information, and a map of growing data center markets. The project intends to advance the understanding of industry externships and site visits as a tool for faculty professional development. Instructional materials would be disseminated through publications of the Association for Career and Technical Education's Techniques magazine, the career and technical education Journal, The Science Teacher, and Technology and Engineering Teacher.

Results of the project will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and presented at various conferences. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the Nation's economy.

DCO PD will have the following components:

  1. A DCO Professional Learning (PL) Fellowship for educators: Fellows will
    1. attend a 3-day PL series at NOVA’s data center training facility in Woodbridge, VA lead by experienced industry professionals,
    2. complete a 5-day DCO externship at an operational data center nearest their college, and
    3. then produce a data center education action plan for integrating data center operations content into their professional practice.
    4. Apply for the fellowship at
    5. Download a DCO Professional Learning Fellowship 2P Flyer here
  2. An awareness and recruitment campaign through ACTE’s national conferences: DCO PD partner ACTE will host DCO workshops, presentations, and coordinate industry site visits during its national conferences. ACTE will conduct three types of conference events:
    1. awareness presentations for CTE administrators covering the data center market, growing need for technicians, desired skills, and other relevant information
    2. data center site visits to facilities near conferences for prospective fellows and conference attendees, and
    3. DCO skills workshops that provide hands-on introductions to relevant skills for data centers (e.g., fiber splicing).
  3. Data Center Education Digital Resource Hub: The resource hub will serve as a repository of PD curriculum, provide syllabi and other pedagogical material produced by fellows, and provide industry contacts, career information, and a map of growing data center markets. The hub will provide interested IHEs with an avenue to form connections with data centers in their region.

Data Center Coalition – The Data Center Coalition (DCC) is the membership association for the data center industry. DCC empowers and champions the data center community through public policy advocacy, thought leadership, stakeholder outreach, and community engagement. View members

AFCOM - AFCOM is a professional association proven to advance the career of IT and data center professionals. For over 40 years, we've been educating, connecting & lifting our members to help them meet the growing demands facing our industry.

Interested in joining? Email

7x24 Exchange -  7×24 Exchange International is a not-for-profit organization that provides an educational forum focusing on challenges faced by mission critical industry professionals. They are the leading provider of conferences enabling collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst industry professionals. View Members List

VEDP Data Centers Page – Virginia hosts the largest Data Center market in the world. Learn about the Data Center industry in Virginia with highlights in infrastructure, talent, business climate, and more. (link title to 

Northern Virginia Community College: DCO Tech Evaluation Baseline Interview Summary – Hear from four DCO industry representatives and four Career and Technical Education (CTE) and engineering programs K-12 staff representatives on regional employment needs, career pathways, K-12 awareness, diversity, and stakeholder partnerships.

Published – March 2022

CBRE Data Center Insights & Research - An aggregation of relevant reports and articles from CBRE about what’s next for digital infrastructure, including enterprise IT, networking and data center operations strategies and what it means for corporate owners and users of data centers worldwide.

Global Data Center Trends 2023 – New technology is driving record demand, but power contains are inhibiting growth. This report covers power shortages, new development, vacancy rates, data center capacities, price increases, and the growth of AI.

Published – July 2023

JLL 2023 Global Data Center Outlook - Rapidly expanding data needs accelerate growth and drive investor interest, even as headwinds persist. Interactive market map with primary, secondary, and emerging markets. Highlights Global Dynamics and perspectives, opportunities, challenges, demand influencers, and investor impact.

Published – April 2023

Cushman & Wakefield 2023 Global Data Center Market Comparison - Explore a unique way to assess and score 63 global primary and emerging data center markets utilizing 13 criteria.

Published – 2023

Record Demand Fuels HI 2022 Surge in Northern American Data Center Development - The North American data center market remains red hot. Demand for capacity more than tripled year-over-year in H1 2022 as companies continued to shift toward hybrid cloud environments in a post-pandemic world. Although large hyperscalers remain the biggest users, the market has seen a resurgence in enterprise demand.

Published – August 2022

Educating Tomorrow’s Data Center Operators by Stack Infrastructure – Addresses the talent shortage proactively by developing curriculum for community colleges and trade schools.

Available DCO Programs

Northern Virginia Community College’s A.A.S. and C.S.C in Data Center Operations – These programs will prepare you for an entry-level position in data centers or companies that support data center function as a technician, operator and/or technologist. The DCO programs immerse you in course work that prepares you to earn BICSI Installer 1, Installer 2 (Copper) and Installer 2 (Fiber Optic) industry credentials, as well as an OSHA 10 certification.

Texas A&M University’s Data Center Operations Engineering Certificate – This program provides an integrated education preparing a new workforce for the specific challenges involved in planning and decision-making for running the operations, designing the infrastructure, and managing the resources in large-scale data centers. The technical focus of this certificate revolves around the development of the critical skills needed by employees of data centers, including a theoretical and practical foundation in the critical top areas of power, cooling, effective systems management, and computer systems. 

Marist College’s Data Center Facilities Management Certificates - The Data Center Facilities Management Associate and Professional Certificate programs provide competency in critical infrastructure design, management, and problem-solving acumen. While learning relevant, job-related skills, participants earn undergraduate credits that can be applied toward a fully online bachelor's degree at Marist. The program provides participants with essential knowledge and skills in facilities management, infrastructure, power, cooling, data communication, project management, and cloud computing.

DCO Tech Grant Outcomes

DCO PD's 3-year term began in July 2023. Initial outcomes will be available after the first year of completion.

Conference Presentations & Dissemination

NOVA will present DCO PD at the following events in 2023: