January 27, 2020

Closing the Skills Gap: A Paradigm Shift

According to a recent article by McKinsey & Company, more and more businesses are evolving into fully-outsourcing their facility maintenance needs. This progression has been in effect for the past decade and will continue to expand as unemployment levels remain low and cash reserves remain steady. Total in-house and outsourced facility management is projected to grow more than 6 percent annually through 2024.

The need for highly-skilled tradespeople is more urgent than ever. Since the majority of high school students have pursued college degrees rather than trade schools over the past decade, our industry, as well as others, such as manufacturing, construction, and even home-repair, have seen a big dip in skilled workers.

Debunking the Myths of Skilled Labor

In order to retain their top talent, many organizations have provided incentives to their seasoned workers to postpone retirement. Others have rehired retirees as consultants. Both of these activities, while admirable, are simply Band-Aids that may stop the bleeding, but do little to address the burgeoning skills gap impacting our industry.

What’s required is a radical paradigm shift in the way our culture thinks about the trades. For years, many people viewed these “blue-collar” careers as low-paying, requiring little to no skills, and with no hopes of long-term employment. This misinformation led many parents to advise their children to pursue expensive college degrees with hopes of lucrative titles and year-end bonuses.

Today, those parents are facing a mountain of college loan debt, along with young adults that remain at home, unemployed, or, at best, underemployed. Their four-year investment has not paid off and the ripple effects are being felt from Main Street to Wall Street.

Change Starts At Home

Everyone at some point or another is asked the proverbial question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Responses from toddlers and tweens range from astronaut to zookeeper. As youngsters advance through middle school and high school, that question is answered quite differently, perhaps even guided by complex assessments that dictate their talents and potential careers.

Even those students who struggled in school have forced themselves into college careers that they were not prepared for nor desired. With pressures from parents, teachers, and even peers, many high school students simply follow the “tried and true” path, which may not always be the best for them.

Shedding New Light on Trades

If we want to narrow the skills gap, we must begin to educate parents, guidance counselors, and even Human Resources managers to present these careers in a new light. When students see that a career in the trades provides a competitive salary, room for advancement, and even the potential for a future entrepreneurial stint, we may begin to see an uptick in trade school attendance and apprenticeships.

Industries must also paint a holistic picture at job fairs that showcase the potential for rewarding careers in the trades. While college degrees are worthy of pursuit, young adults should be presented with options so they can make the best choice that will help them develop their skills and talents.

At Branded Group, we have taken steps to do our part to close the skills gap:

  • Re-tooled our internal training programs: In essence, we have re-skilled many of our staff members so they are better equipped to work with our vendors to address our customer’s facility service needs. While this can’t compare to the likes of Amazon’s recent commitment to re-train a third of their workforce, the intention is the same.
  • Launched the #BeBetter Scholarship program: This new initiative is designed to offset the tuition expenses for a student pursuing a career in the HVAC industry. Our program has been met with great enthusiasm by students and trade school personnel alike as they see we are looking to work together to move the needle.

Closing the skills gap won’t happen overnight. In fact it may take longer than its creation. However, with parents, educational institutions, and organizations working in lock step, we can help to shine a new light on careers in the trades. This will enable us to attract top talent and enable our industry to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

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