Demand remains high for skilled pros in networking jobs, but these positions require up-to-date skills. Data centers, in particular, are having trouble finding people to design, build and manage data centers.

A survey by the Uptime Institute showed 61 percent of data center staffing experts said they have significant difficulty retaining or recruiting staff for networking jobs, up six percent from last year.

“We all know that the data-center skills shortage is real,” said Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at the Uptime Institute. “I think that we’re seeing in this data that it’s getting a little worse.”

But what about automation? Will it solve this staffing shortage? The short answer is maybe. The survey also asked if respondents believe AI will reduce data center operations staffing levels in the next five years. 29 percent said yes, and 29 percent also said no. The remaining 42 percent were positive, but thought it would take more than five years for AI to make an impact on staffing.

Meanwhile data center growth isn’t slowing down, but the skills needed are evolving. Networking jobs require IT pros to engage in a variety of learning methods to keep current. For most, gone are the days of week-long training classes. If travel is involved, it’s more likely a conference like Cisco Live, where attendees might attend sessions on dozens of technologies and topics.

Just Google it. Networkers that keep up with new technologies are often self-taught with resources they find online. Other IT teams build time to watch short instructive videos into meetings, followed by discussion about the technology and applicability to the team’s particular network. Longer form webinars offer a chance to engage in Q&A with vendors before engaging into a sales cycle.

Ramp up and deployment services are a great time to get teams trained on new gear and technologies. Larger forums like the Cisco DevNet community offers opportunities to survey peers for their takes on challenges but can lead into rabbit holes of conflicting information.

The key to keeping up with technology in networking jobs is to have a clear focus on business needs. Cross-function innovation teams that meet regularly keep silos from forming and entrenching.