by Ashley Halligan

Last month I wrote an article outlining five of the most in-demand positions in the facility management world. While researching the article, I interviewed Joel Leonard, President of SkillTV; who talked about the “maintenance crisis.” Leonard defines the maintenance crisis as the collapse of the skilled workforce as baby boomers not only retire, but less younger folks are seeking these positions out.


The same week of that interview, the Star Tribune reported on the widening skills gap. That article cited that 72 percent of interviewed human resource professionals expressed concern over the pending retirement of the baby boomer generation.


So, what innovations and strategies are professionals implementing to conquer this growing problem in the facilities maintenance field?


Starting Young

Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs released survey results (pdf) which concluded that, “The United States has become a nation of ‘non-tinkerers,’ … and manufacturing leaders say the ‘hands-off’ policy around the house is a leading cause of disinterest among American youth to fill much-needed, future skilled labor jobs in the industrial arena.” Specialized camps can help youth discover new interests, and learn valuable skills that could lead to more skilled labor career choices.


Encouraging the nation’s youth, from an early age, to become interested in hands-on roles is crucial to filling these empty positions as baby boomers leave the workforce. Camps and technical classes can be the driving force behind some future career choices.


Battling Stigmas

People also have the perception that skilled labor roles are primarily reserved for men, and that they’re underpaid and dirty.


“People have a misconception that these roles are dull, dumb, and dreadful–involving mops, buckets, and posterior cleavage,” Leonard says. “People don’t realize the technicalities, compensation opportunities, the innovativeness of computerized maintenance management systems software, and the job security that comes with these roles.”


With the current maintenance workforce consisting of just 5 percent females, Amy Earl, VP of Antech Systems, says, “Women assume they know nothing about welding, for example. But, in virtual reality scenarios, women regularly outperform men. It’s their steady hand, attention to detail, fine-tuned, delicate finesse. We need to turn the stigma for maintenance and manufacturing around.”


Leonard, along with Antech Systems, co-developed the Occupy a Job application that helps people – students and unemployed adults assess their career skills. Ultimately their message is to “close the skills gap and Occupy American jobs.”


With innovative solutions, it seems there’s a good chance of overcoming the maintenance crisis — and that begins with creating an interest outside of the baby boomers, beginning with children and providing new training platforms for unemployed adults seeking new employment fields.


Ashley Halligan ( is a facility management market analyst at Software Advice, a Web-based advisory firm in Austin, Texas.