What is your plan to handle the skilled repair technician gap?

contractor measuring cut

by Scott Reyes

One of the most common questions I am asked about our industry is, “What is the biggest challenge you see facing the facilities maintenance industry?”

I have the same answer every time.

More skilled maintenance technicians are retiring than there are entering the industry. This causes three major challenges.

First, the big contracting firms will have the best technicians which will lead to fewer options when it comes to hiring maintenance contractors. These bigger companies can pay the highest wages, so they will attract the best talent.

Second, this leads to a supply and demand imbalance. Costs will go up. When fewer companies control the market, there is less competition and prices increase.

Third, facilities managers will have less leverage to get work done quickly. Again this is caused by low supply and fewer options.

We are in the beginning stages of a contractors market, and the reality is there is very little that can be done to slow this reality. It will take time for the labor force to level out and for the market to return back to a new normal.

Side note: If you have kids approaching the end of their high school years, this presents and enormous opportunity for a high income career. Skilled trades people will be making more than their college educated desk-job counterparts for the next 5-12 years. I tell high school students with entrepreneurship dreams to learn a trade, and get as close as possible to the owner of a contracting company. Help them with administrative work in addition to doing the field work, and in 2 years they will be a decade ahead of what they would have learned about business from college.

So what can be done.

I have 2 suggestions. In both of these situations, you need to have someone in charge fo the facilities maintenance program’s success, and you need to give them the proper authority to perform their work at a high level. The right facilities professional is a key stakeholder in protecting your brand identity, extending the lifecycle of your assets, and managing business costs.

If your model is going to be based on hiring outside contractors to make repairs, you need to start gathering as much data about your facilities maintenance and asset repair history as possible. Invest in technology tools to do this. Start now. The goal of gathering the data will be to identify trends and problem areas leading to unnecessary maintenance costs. These will mainly come from unnecessary work orders, paying for work that should be covered by warranties, and identifying operational inefficiencies like poor care for equipment that lead to avoidable equipment breakdown.

If you are willing to hire in house maintenance staff, you will have better options for saving money. But…you will need to provide your staff with a better work experience in order to compete. This included making sure they have a territory the reduces drive and travel time. You will still need to invest in technology for the same reasons I just listed.

The bottom line is you need to have a plan for your facilities management program, and you need to start assembling the pieces today.