The Skilled Labor Shortage and Opportunity in Facilities Management

by Mar 21, 2019Facilities Culture

Over the past 30+ years, the trades and other careers favored by hands-on types have fallen out of favor. As baby boomers retire, this trend has caused a severe shortage of skilled workers, particularly in Facilities Management and Maintenance. But this also presents a great opportunity for people experienced or interested in a career outside of the corporate world.

So what happened?

Part of it could be perception. Could the exaggerated blue collar stereotype have been so bad? How did the glamorous world of khakis and cubicles become the only path to success?

“If you don’t go to college and work behind a desk, you haven’t accomplished anything and will never be financially comfortable.”

For Gen Xers like me, this was the general message when it came time to think about our careers. It didn’t help that communities like mine, with a large portion of people working in the trades at the time, endured the hardships to the construction and supporting industries during the ‘Great Real Estate Depression’ in the 80’s.

It was absolutely common for people like me, who picked up some mechanical skills and knowledge of a trade in our youth, to let these assets sit idle. I personally had a knack for electrical work, ample experience, and a family business to fall into. But the thought to pursue a career as an electrician never crossed my mind. I felt I was expected to learn about something else entirely. Like so many others I blindly pursued the promise of the white collar dream and went to school.

Mission accomplished for schools admissions and lenders; most everyone I know attended some sort of secondary education. Very, very few of those folks are in careers that matched their studies. Myself included. I ended up back in the FM world, after all.

Facilities Management: Hands-on types please apply

Working as a laborer for a while doesn’t mean you’ll spend your career running a jack hammer and hauling lumber, but you might gain some really valuable skills and experience. And you don’t need to be on a construction crew to avoid a full time desk job.

Facilities Management is an industry that isn’t going anywhere. As long as there are buildings being used to house the different parts of our lives there will be a need for FM.

My friend Matthew is a great example of a kid from the suburbs whose affinity for the trades and and a good attitude led him to a great career and a bright future in FM. Matthew actually did go to college. Graphic design. Luckily he had been working construction between semesters so when he found his way to NYC he found work in construction.

Delivering materials to construction sites felt like a demotion, but Matthew learned that there was a valuable skill in knowing how to prep materials for jobs and deliver the right materials on time. A motivated guy, his talent was recognized and he was running renovation jobs for the company in no time.

In high demand

As Matthew worked with different sites around the city, he was constantly offered on-site FM work by his clients. Really…almost every job he was on gave him an offer.

It’s because people with experience, like Matthew, are so important for Facilities Maintenance teams, and they’re in short supply. He’s a facility manager at a private school in the city these days, and he’s set up to be extremely successful moving forward.

Breaking into the field

Whether you are a tradesperson looking to get in out of the elements, or a recent high school graduate ready for vocational training or an apprenticeship, FM can offer you great opportunities. FM jobs provide good working conditions and legitimate opportunities for career progression without getting your doctoral degree. And as long as there are buildings there will be FM jobs. Look around and you’ll find some great opportunities in some great buildings out there.

Benefits for the skilled labor lot pursuing a career in FM

Facilities maintenance can include electrical, carpentry, plumbing, painting, and HVAC work. You’ll also be exposed to the systems that help monitor, run, and manage facilities. Training in the field is available through technical or associate’s degree programs, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training like Matthew.

The exposure to so many different occupations while working in FM can help entry level workers decide on a career path in a specialty or specific trade. Any previous experience in the trades, maintenance, or manufacturing can be the foot in the door you need to get a job in FM.

LogCheck has worked with all types of individuals starting out as technicians at the buildings we support. With dedication and hard work, some have gone from technician to resident managers in large residential facilities with ample compensation in little more than 5 years.

One of our favorite clients is a building manager hero who has gone out of his way to mentor facilities techs who started on his crew with little more than some handyman experience. For years he has helped lay out a career path for these technicians and, after paying their dues in the boiler room, many have since progressed into roles at buildings of their own. They’re on a path to success with the intention of continuous career improvement. Some have even become resident managers in some of NYCs finer buildings.

The opportunities in the industry are real, and in some cases can be very lucrative with major perks. So if you’re at a career crossroads, consider FM.

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