Overcoming Labor Shortages by Building Relationships in Your Community
Director of Strategic Sales Quinn Heimann has been with Aerotek since 2011 and has held a multitude of roles overseeing clients in the construction; oil and gas; disaster response; healthcare; life sciences; and, most recently, the consumer products space. She explains how employers can resolve their staffing challenges by partnering with local organizations.
The labor struggles we’ve experienced over the last several years is likely to continue well into the future. Many industries are struggling to find the workers needed to complete projects or meet demand. This includes the in-demand skilled trades workers who are continuing to retire from the labor force.
The skills gap is a well-known challenge in facilities management. Whether you’re trying to find an electrician, maintenance technician or another highly-skilled worker — the lack of available talent is an ongoing concern.
Now that the country is feeling the squeeze from the lack of technical workers, it’s time to reframe the approach to presenting technical and trade work to students and those looking to start new careers.
More experienced tradespeople are continuing to retire, and we need more people to take interest in these roles. While rising student debt and layoffs in white-collar jobs have many students taking another look at trades, it will still take years for the talent pool to expand.
How strategic partnerships can improve your workforce
Despite the challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. In Aerotek’s Summer 2023 Job-Seeker Survey, 19% of recent applicants for facilities and maintenance positions were between the ages of 18 and 24. A significant number of applicants interested in facilities maintenance positions are just beginning their careers. The opportunity is there.
An effective way to help increase interest and engagement in the trades is to get our youth and less-experienced workers interested early on. Often, high school curriculum doesn’t include vocational or hands-on classes, as more and more schools are increasingly incorporating STEM and computer sciences into their curriculums. That’s why it’s a great idea to offer outlets for interested students.
Local companies or trade schools can work with high schools or community colleges to set up internships or vocational programs. These programs can allow interested students to learn directly from facility mangers, restoration technicians, electricians, and other skill sets. By developing relationships with your local schools, colleges and government agencies, you’re simultaneously building connections to your future workforce.
It’s a long-term strategy that gives those harboring an interest in the skilled trades an opportunity to explore that curiosity.
How to establish relationships
The early phases of planning an outreach program that includes colleges, high schools and other institutions can be intimidating. Building relationships involves research, communication and patience. Start by identifying some shared goals between your company and the organization you’re interested in partnering with. This can help you bring some valuable discussion points to the relationship.
Presenting your common goals is an excellent ice breaker, but you’ll eventually need to discuss the details regarding logistics and funding. That can be a daunting project but focusing on creating the conversation can help you begin building connections.
Highlighting to a potential partner how developing a relationship is mutually beneficial is just the starting point. You will also need to outline specific tactics to engage those about to enter the labor force or considering a career change. Here are a few ideas we’ve seen be effective.
Summer camp ideas
This is one of the best times to grab students’ interest, because they’ll have plenty of time on summer break and plenty of energy to expend. While not available in every region, there are summer programs that focus on the skilled and industrial trades. These programs conduct all sorts of activities and courses in extracurricular studies, so pitch an idea to them. Explain that you have an engaging, hands-on activity or “class” for them to learn about your trade. For example, you can show younger workers how your company utilizes the latest technology to spotlight potential issues and teach how the industry is changing to include more robotics and automation.
Schools and local government agencies will often host job fairs to give students or new workers exposure to a diverse range of employers. These assemblies can expose students to dozens of different businesses and trades in only a couple of hours, or even minutes. It can also be a great way to exchange contact information for future employers as well.
Organizations and schools will usually reach out to local businesses and ask them to discuss the skills they are looking for and what job opportunities are currently available. When preparing for a job fair, be sure to ask the organizer what they think might attract students and other attendees. Take their advice and you might have the most popular table there.
Hands-on learning experiences offer someone who is interested in the skill set a deeper level of engagement. Those beginning or changing careers will often be interested in exploring the details up close.
You can work with local colleges and other institutions to learn more about what it takes to promote your internship. Investigate potentially listing a course or internship with them. You might be required to submit a curriculum outline or expectations of the student. This is like writing a job description for a new opening so the process should be familiar.
Apprenticeships can also create valuable hands-on experiences. The biggest difference is that an apprentice is entitled to being paid. Therefore, you may want to make this program more detailed and aligned to immediate business objectives.
Overcoming the labor shortage is going to take a lot of time and energy. It’ll take investing in the future to overcome our long-term labor struggles. At Aerotek, we’re working with non-profit organizations like SkillsUSA to inspire and support the next generation of skilled workers. Our upskilling initiative leverages new alliances with educational providers to help our clients develop, attract and retain talent with hard-to-find skills, provide growth opportunities for our contractors, and ensure we are doing our part within the marketplace to close the skills gap.
By making connections to the various schools and agencies in your region, you can begin to build the relationships that help foster interest in a career in facilities management. There’s no guarantee that everyone initially interested will convert to an employee but being proactive and present in your region can be a competitive advantage.
When you’re ready to discuss how to find quality workers near you, contact Aerotek.