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Program Helps to Solve Staffing Shortages for Skilled Maintenance Techs

Skilled Maintenance Techs
April 2019

A coalition of property management companies is launching two pilot programs to bring pre-trained young adults into entry-level maintenance roles.

It's no secret that skilled apartment maintenance professionals are in short supply across the country. HR leaders and recruiters in our industry frequently describe the difficulty of finding qualified candidates for their maintenance teams in this tight labor market.

This reality presents a suite of related challenges to property management companies: Greater time to fill open roles, understaffing of onsite maintenance teams and ultimately, longer waits for residents who need urgent service requests resolved.

Fortunately, leaders in the apartment industry have recognized the significance of this challenge and are taking action. With support from the NAA Education Institute (NAAEI), the Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) and the Apartment & Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA) Educational Foundation, a coalition of property management companies is launching two pilot programs to bring pre-trained young adults into entry-level maintenance roles.

This group, which includes Greystar, Alliance Residential, Weidner Apartment Homes, Camden, Equity Residential, Pinnacle, WinnCompanies, Mark Taylor and others will be partnering with Job Corps, a workforce training program administered by the Department of Labor that provides free educational and vocational training to low-income young adults across the country.

The kickoff event for these pilots took place in November, when representatives from property management companies gathered at the NAA’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. and the AMA’s offices in Phoenix for a “Design Lab” to build a shared understanding of the causes of the maintenance talent challenge and design a solution that would benefit all of the companies involved.

This partnership was facilitated by Grads of Life, a nonprofit workforce intermediary that helps companies develop innovative programs to bring young people into quality jobs. Also present at both sessions were several representatives from Job Corps, who presented their facilities maintenance training program as a valuable source of talent that apartment management companies may have overlooked in the past.

Some parts of this innovative pilot program are still being finalized, but its main components have been defined. Throughout the coming year, Potomac Job Corps and Phoenix Job Corps will recruit young adults on an ongoing basis from their training cohorts and the broader community who demonstrate an interest and inclination for careers in apartment maintenance.

During a course of several months, these students will follow a training program to provide them with the skills they will need as entry-level maintenance technicians. Areas include basic electrical services, HVAC, appliance repair and customer service skills. This program will be aligned to the NAA’s Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMT), the industry-recognized credential for maintenance professionals nationwide.

Following this training period, participants in the program will transition to a 10-week-long, on-the-job paid internship experience at selected apartment communities of participating companies. At the end of this phase, companies will have the opportunity to hire these candidates as full-time maintenance technicians at no extra cost.

Although individuals in the program will not be stepping onto apartment communities until later this year – the earliest are expected to do so in the late spring – representatives from participating companies are already beginning to express their excitement.

“The talent pool we will gain access to through this partnership will be incredibly valuable as we work to fill open maintenance positions in our company,” says Marie Virgilio, Chief People Officer of Weidner Apartment Homes. “The greatest challenge our industry faces is the shortage of candidates for these kinds of roles.

“It gives me hope that we can begin tackling this pressing issue in a way that benefits not just our companies, but also provides great employment opportunities to young people who may currently lack access to these jobs.”

This pilot program will be starting small, with approximately 20 to 30 students going through the maintenance training and on-the-job experience in both Washington, D.C., and Phoenix in 2019. During the year, NAAEI, AMA, AOBA Educational Foundation and Grads of Life will be capturing outcomes and learnings to help guide the future creation of such talent partnership programs in cities across the country.

“We are thrilled to see this level of enthusiasm and collaboration among our affiliates and member companies and to know that they see this as a highly valuable solution to a critical workforce need,” says NAAEI’s Workforce Development Director, Sarah Levine.

“The NAAEI is excited to expand this inventive model in 2019 with two additional pilots in two other cities, with partial support from the Anthony V. Pusateri fund, and will be working to identify interested NAA affiliates in opportune markets.”

Adapted from the March-April 2019 issue of Apartment News, the official publication of the Arizona Multihousing Association.