It’s understandable that maintenance and engineering managers spend a good deal of time considering such issues as new-technology applications and “green” buildings. These kinds of issues tend to make headlines and, more importantly, capture the attention of building owners and facility executives.
But another, less high-profile issue — worker training — is quietly staking its claim as a make-or-break challenge for managers, and those who devote time to identifying needs and resources related to training can prevent short-term problems and potential long-term disaster.
A number of factors are driving the need for comprehensive training of front-line maintenance and engineering technicians. Institutional and commercial facilities feature increasingly complex equipment and systems. Advances in diagnostic tools and software require more expertise than ever. Organizations continue to demand increases in worker productivity.
Unfortunately, the pool of potential candidates is understocked and overfished. The nation’s technical and community colleges are not graduating enough students to fill the demand among maintenance and engineering departments. Those entering the work force are often courted by contractors, who also have problems finding qualified employees.
What does this mean for managers? In part, it means they will have to devote more time to finding qualified workers. But it also means spending more time developing a comprehensive training strategy for each worker on the full range of issues from time management and safety to system troubleshooting and new technology.
Managers will have to sort through an array of training sources and weigh the bottom-line implications of properly training workers, and of not doing so. But deciding whether training is onsite or offsite, provided by a manufacturer or an independent trainer, or computer-based or hands-on should take a backseat to a more important decision — to commit time and money to worker training as a way to improve maintenance and protect organizations’ investment in facilities.