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One big topic of discussion at this year’s National Facility Management & Technology (NFMT) conference and exposition was the challenge of finding and developing talent for the facility department. Conversations at NFMT showed that a wide range of efforts is underway to address those challenges.
Facility organizations are expanding the scope of their recruiting efforts. One example is Sodexo, an NFMT exhibitor and sponsor of the Women in FM roundtable and reception at the show. In addition to using such traditional methods as online job boards, local ads, and job and career fairs, the company is recruiting on college campuses, creating partnerships with organizations like the IFMA Foundation, and taking steps to recruit veterans.
Sodexo is also focused on recruiting and developing women within its workforce. The company’s SoTogether Facility Management program aims to increase gender diversity, especially at senior levels. The program includes a Yammer group that provides education, news, and stories of role models and rising stars in the organization. “Gender balance and diversity are very important to Sodexo,” said Aimee Meher-Homji, vice president, talent acquisition, Sodexo. Recruiting efforts seek to attract female candidates for entry, junior, and senior-level positions.
The company is also using social media to create “talent communities,” Meher-Homji said. Posts on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter offer a way to stay in touch with potential job candidates.
Bringing new talent into the facility field is an industry-wide challenge that is being tackled by a variety of groups. One example is the work being done by the AOBA Education Foundation in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The foundation provides internships, training based on job skills and job readiness, and scholarships to help job seekers become building engineers or multifamily maintenance professionals or to enter the skilled trades. The foundation, created at the end of 2017, placed 10 students in internships last summer. Six graduated, and four of the six were hired, said Marc Fischer, executive director of the foundation, who spoke on “Solving the Talent Crisis for Skilled Trades” at NFMT. This summer, the program has the potential for 40 internships - 20 for students considered job ready, and 20 who are ready to work but need significantly more skills than they have now. The foundation has more than candidates — most of whom have some relevant experience, either on the job (including customer service), through related courses, or through community outreach and career services programs that offer exposure to building trades, according to Marie L. Tibor, marketing and communications consultant for the foundation. There are currently 13 companies sponsoring interns; they will interview the candidates and then a sponsor “Match Day” will connect candidates with appropriate sponsors.
As far as bringing talent into the facility field, one challenge that Fischer sees is the need to rebrand facility jobs. Building engineering, for example, is a distinct career path, with opportunities for advancement, that many trade school students are unaware of.
“Facility management is not what it was,” said Eric Jouane, vice president, North American Facilities Management Platform, Sodexo. “I’m very excited about the new work environment.” He points to the use of remote controlled vehicles and augmented reality glasses as new technologies that Sodexo is using in facility applications.
Another industry-wide effort is the FaciliThon, a program that aims to get high school students interested in facility careers, said Jim Zirbel, CEO and co-founder of FaciliThon, who attended NFMT this year. The FaciliThon is a competition for high school students that involves a multiple choice test, a role playing exercise, and a real world facility challenge that students try to solve. FaciliThon competitions are currently set up in four states: Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Wisconsin; other states are in the process of setting up competitions. Once 10 states have FacilThon competitions, the program will go national, said Zirbel. The FaciliThon events have attracted a diverse base of students. Half of the students in Facilithon competitions are young women, Zirbel said; one third are people of color. The FaciliThons are part of SkillsUSA competitions.
Ed Sullivan is editor-in-chief of Building Operating Management.