Facility leaders share their thoughts on what to expect this year and beyond
Join Dave Thompson on Feb. 27 in our Ask the Expert session on motivating and recognizing technicians and janitors
Facility managers all across the United States are struggling to find qualified candidates to join their teams. According to a recent staffing poll conducted on FacilitiesNet, 84 percent of respondents currently have a vacancy they are trying to fill.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation that followed, many facility personnel decided to enter a new field or retire early. Now in the midst of a competitive labor market, it's getting increasingly difficult to attract workers to the facility management and maintenance industries. From entry-level technicians to six-figure executive positions, there are vacancies all across departments. This problem will likely only get worse as 30 percent of facility professionals plan on retiring in the next five years.
“We’re having a huge issue with entry-level positions, whether it’s carpenters, plumbers or electricians, it’s just becoming extremely difficult to recruit," says Alex Kogan, Associate Vice President, Plant Operations & Housing, The Rockefeller University.
In addition to filling these open positions, many departments are looking to grow their staffs. According to the poll, just over half of respondents are planning to add staff positions in 2023.
The most effective recruiting strategy for facility managers are referrals, according to the “Maintenance Technician Staffing Report.” Candidates from a referral process tend to be more reliable and a better fit for the department likely because this person has already been through a sort of vetting process by the referring employee.
Another popular strategy is an apprentice or internship program. These programs give facilities a pipeline of qualified candidates who are ready to fill vacancies and can often work alongside veteran staffers who will soon retire.
Kent State University is currently in the middle of training its first set of 10 employees as part of a two-year accredited apprenticeship program designed to end with a full-time position as a maintenance mechanic.
"So far, it’s been very positive. We created 10 positions and they’ve all been very receptive. And we guaranteed them once they complete the program, they would automatically be promoted to maintenance mechanic,” says Doug Pearson, associate vice president, Facilities Planning and Operations.
Internships can start at the high school level. Not every student goes on to college or joins the military. A career in the trades can be a great career for kids with a "technical mindset."
“I’ve been talking to kids and teachers about buildings and trades. I did an hour and a half with a bunch of high school teachers and showed them all the stuff that kids can do if they don’t go to college,” says Robert P. Wengel, Senior Vice President of Facilities and Security, John G. Shedd Aquarium.
The staffing crisis isn’t going to end anytime soon. To remain competitive, facility managers will need to rethink their recruitment strategies and re-examine their compensation packages. And, in order to avoid more vacancies in the future, employee retention efforts will become even more important.
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