July 8, 2020
By Sarah Kloepple
One of the biggest issues faced today by the facility management (FM) industry is filling what’s known as the “experience gap.”
In the session “Facility Management: Filling the Experience Gap” at the 2020 Virtual BOMA International Conference & Expo, panelists discussed the impending exodus of 25 percent of the building services workforce over the age of 55 who are eligible to retire soon and how to replace the invaluable experience leaving with them.
Why has it been difficult to recruit the younger generation? Panel moderator Christine Batchelor, account manager for Limbach Company, believes many younger professionals might not know much about the FM industry and that it can be a viable career.
“One of the barriers to having more people enter this business is this perception of being ‘wrench turners,’” she said. “The idea that [these jobs] are hard and require physical strength, or they’re wet and dirty and loud. I’m not sure that’s true anymore.”
With a “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, some skillsets leaving with them include their ability to be out in the field and understand the equipment and the needs of the building.
“The younger generation is much more in tune with running the BAS [building automation system]—they grew up with computers,” said panelist Ty Chilcote, vice president of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for Able Services. “The tradeoff is they’re not understanding and hearing how a building lives and breathes and so forth. That’s one of hardest things to transfer from the older generation that is moving out.”
Some solutions discussed during the panel discussion included:
- Shadowing: Having a younger professional shadow senior personnel on the job.
- Community outreach: Implementing more community outreach to try and find eligible young professionals in non-traditional ways.
- AI: Using asset management programs and intelligent sensors to capture data. “But you need an idea of what you’re trying to gain, so you don’t go crazy,” said panelist Mike Brown, president of SMS 360. “Too much data might mean you can’t find what you’re looking for.”
The panelists—who also included Jamal Johnson of Prologis and Keli Wallace of Accesso—touched on the topic of diversity in the workforce and why it needs to be a fundamental initiative that leadership pushes forward, whether that means partnering with apprenticeship programs or recruiting at the high school or even grade school level.
“There’s a real value in seeing somebody who looks like you who is doing this,” Batchelor said. “I’m going to advocate for everybody in this business, particularly people of color and women, to go out and try and recruit and be a part of that process. I really feel like being able to relate to somebody who looks like you is important in terms of recruiting.”