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Maintenance Training Fills Demand from Within

Maintenance Training
November 2018

David Dike has felt the squeeze of the apartment industry’s maintenance tech crunch firsthand.

As corporate director of maintenance for Dallas-based Knightvest, he’s responsible for making sure the firm’s 20,000 units in Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona are maintained and serviced to his clients’ and residents’ high standards.

But lately, just finding enough qualified maintenance personnel to do those jobs in the first place has become a bigger part of his daily checklist. “This job market’s just really tight,” Dike says. “There’s a lack of qualified candidates to fill all the open positions.”

Indeed, according to the National Apartment Association’s Apartment Jobs Snapshot, maintenance technician openings rank second only to property managers across the industry, with the number of those jobs projected to grow another 6.1 percent by 2026. In hot markets like Phoenix, Seattle and Denver, demand for maintenance techs was more than three times the U.S. average.

In Dike’s own home market of Dallas, demand for maintenance technicians is running almost double the national norm. To help him tackle the challenge, Dike works with the employees he already has to get the job done. That means training, training and more training.

“Knightvest has invested significant time and resources in training our techs internally,” Dike says. “It’s the only way to make sure you’ve got a big enough pool of qualified candidates available when you need to promote your leads, and it helps you promote from within when you have openings.”

Dike and Knightvest get much of that training through MSH Academy, the training arm of Dallas-based Maintenance Supply Headquarters.

Through that program, he’s been able to get his team training on mold remediation – a consistent issue in hot, humid climates – as well as electrical training and instruction for Certified Pool & Spa Operators (CPO), which has helped him significantly reduce his pool repair costs.

“Not only does that training help to minimize costly repairs when equipment isn’t used or maintained properly, but by having a documented training program, you’re limiting your exposure to liability if proper procedures aren’t followed,” Dike says. “Mold classes for us have been extremely helpful, since that’s a significant issue across the regions our properties are in.”

Maintenance Supply Headquarters runs a regular slate of classes through MSH Academy on topics ranging from multifamily electrical wiring to plumbing, appliance and heater repair, and water heater, heat pump and furnace maintenance and repair. It provides a specialized course in HVAC R22 To 410A Conversion, which helps train technicians to modify air conditioning equipment as the older R22 refrigerant, which won’t be available after 2020, is phased out. With that deadline approaching, it’s consistently been one of MSH’s most sought-after courses.

Many of the firm’s training slates are offered in Spanish, and with the exception of CPO certification, are usually free. A schedule of current classes, segmented by market, can be found here.

Cary Wright, senior vice president of sales at Maintenance Supply Headquarters, says another popular offering lately has been the firm’s Maintenance for Managers class. By teaching property managers what’s involved in specific jobs, Wright says the course helps onsite managers set expectations, and realistic timelines for job completion.

But it also helps those managers get better acquainted with the skills maintenance technicians need, should they have to fill an open position at their own properties in this tight labor market.

“This industry is unique in that you can be a leasing agent today, and the assistant manager tomorrow,” Wright says. “What we do in that course is give them the knowledge of what it takes to get the job done, so they can know they’re hiring the right person for the job.”

Sounds like a tailor-made solution for tackling the apartment industry’s maintenance tech crunch from within.