- Integrated facilities management firm NEST and leaders across the construction, retail and skilled trades industries launched the Skilled Trades Advisory Council Aug. 23 to combat the skilled labor crisis affecting the U.S and Canada, according to a NEST news release.
- The council’s leadership, which represents a wide range of in-need trades, will leverage its “resources, knowledge and network” to elevate the trades as a high-paying, honorable and “heroic” career path, NEST said in the release.
- The council will drive awareness of the trades through educational events, construction camps, fundraising and scholarships, providing additional strategies that align with its leadership’s skill sets, NEST CEO Rob Almond said.
The application rate for young people seeking technical jobs dropped 49% in 2022 compared with 2020, according to data from online recruiting platform Handshake. The impact of fewer applicants will be magnified by the ongoing retirement wave of older technicians and facility management staff and the growing demand for mixed skill sets that include technical skills, manual training and software-based application knowledge. About 4.8 million of the 12 million individuals in the skilled trades workforce are over the age of 45, with nearly half older than 55, according to staffing firm PeopleReady.
“Finding top talent has always been difficult. It's even more difficult now,” Randy Fink, managing director of property management at JLL, said in an interview. “The availability of seasoned staff that we've had, we call it the gray tsunami. Especially in our engineering and maintenance fields, but including our property and facility management fields. A lot of folks have exited the industry in the last five years, and so we have a lot of new talent.”
NEST’s Almond said the Skilled Trades Advisory Council will not only address the need for technical skills in building services that include HVAC, refrigeration, electrical and plumbing, but will also focus on increasing awareness of less obviously in-demand labor. That includes the need for janitorial services, landscaping, snow removal contractors, locksmiths and painters.
NEST delivers day-to-day tactical management of facilities, financial consulting, project management and construction for multi-state brands in North America. Almond said the company began this endeavor because of concerns from many of NEST’s suppliers, contractors and owners it works with: “They were exhausted because there just wasn't enough labor.”
The council will start small, Almond added, naming Austin, Texas, San Francisco; and Dallas — where some of NEST’s current suppliers and customers are located — as focus areas for driving awareness. As for the future, “What does that three-year plan look like? We have no idea. We just wanted to say, ‘Let's drive awareness first and see how far we can take this,’” he said.
JLL’s Fink said that the industry, in addition to offering higher compensation, is being pushed to focus on training to alleviate labor concerns. “I think the second part is developing talent. It's not easy to find technically capable engineers and maintenance folks in computer-savvy administrative and management folks,” he said, adding that the teams that are able to recruit and train well are capable of being efficient, saving money and finding value.
NEST sponsored a construction camp July 6 - Aug. 11 led by the National Association of Women in Construction in Philadelphia. The camp, run by Mary Gaffney, president of the NAWIC Philadelphia Foundation and of GEM Mechanical Services, taught more than 40 young women about plumbing, electrical handyman safety, engineering and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
“We want them in the trades. It’s just such a fulfilling job, in my view, and it’s to help them be very independent,” Gaffney told Construction Dive in an article about the camp. She now sits on STAC’s founding advisory council, highlighting the exact collaboration and programs that the council hopes to achieve.
“If we can just do this and build upon it, we can really get in front of something that needs a lot of attention. It needs it quick,” Almond added.