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Industry must help build skilled FM workforce

By Rod Rushing
Vice President and President of Building Solutions North America, Johnson Controls

As buildings become smarter with integrated innovative technologies and solutions, the workers and managers supporting these buildings – from facility managers to engineers and technicians – must also adapt. This requires a workforce that has received hands-on training based on planning and proper maintenance of advanced systems. While most facility managers are not expected to perform regular maintenance on buildings systems, they are tasked with planning, directing and coordinating supportive services – including ensuring the technicians they have hired can successfully operate, integrate and maintain various systems.

Addressing the skills gap

With more than two million technical roles expected to go unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers – all while the industry is booming and busier than ever before – it’s crucial to build a workforce that can be successful and understand the advanced technologies and systems that make facilities thrive. Ask managers in almost every industry about their biggest challenges, and “finding and keeping skilled workers” will be at the top of their lists.

Proper facility management plays a vital role in creating an environment where occupants can thrive. However, this environment can be threatened when HVAC or other building systems are not functioning correctly. For example, HVAC systems failing in hospitals can compromise patient comfort and healing when air conditioning is not working on a hot summer day.

As innovation drives the adoption of integrated solutions within facilities, the sophistication and skills needed to support building systems, such as HVAC, security or fire systems, will only continue to increase. Addressing the current skills gap impacting the industry is an important first step in meeting the labor need and ensuring future technicians have the knowledge that is imperative to maintain a secure, highly functioning facility.

Talent for tomorrow

The Bureau of Labor predicts a demand for more than 100,000 new HVAC specialists in the coming years, and developing this workforce starts with educating current and future students on the viable career paths offered in the technical industries, like building automation. As part of a larger workforce development initiative in North America, Johnson Controls has partnered with Lincoln Tech to deliver a cutting-edge curriculum to help educate the future workforce. By providing hands-on training using the latest Johnson Controls technologies, the partnership will provide students with an advanced skillset to help them work towards meaningful careers as successful technicians.  

To keep up with the pace of innovation in the building sector and to continue to meet the automation, security and sustainability needs of smart buildings, organizations need to start by attracting and investing in talent through continued training and education. If the industry works together to shine light on successful and stable career paths in the technical fields, and continue to support and educate new entries, we can create a more informed and skilled industry. Every effort and investment makes a difference in the workforce to lay the foundation for today and far into the future.