Solving for Service Team Shortages

By Peter Jakel, LinnellTaylor Marketing |

| Updated

3 minute read

Meeting the maintenance team requires targeting the right job seekers.

They hang in seemingly every retailer window at every outdoor mall. They’re strung up as banners in front of heavily trafficked intersections. “Now Hiring” signs are nearly as prominent as traffic signals today.

Although most rental housing operators haven’t implemented the window-shopping technique to attract potential employees, the labor shortage is just as tangible in the industry, especially within the maintenance team. According to the National Apartment Association, rental-housing operators posted 25,000 maintenance tech jobs in 2018, while turnover among maintenance techs reached 39 percent and continues to rise.

Meeting the maintenance team member shortage challenge, however, isn’t about posting the right signage. It’s about targeting the right job seekers and implementing the right skill-based training programs, according to the industry professionals on the “Solving for Service Team Shortages” panel at NAA’s Apartmentalize in 2019.

As many of the most qualified maintenance workers have turned to the construction industry where wages are higher and work is steady, many rental-housing providers are turning to opportunity youth. Opportunity youth, according to Raphael Rosenblatt, Senior Director of Employer Solutions for Grads of Life, describes the 15-30-year-olds who are smart, ambitious and through a set of unfortunate circumstances never found themselves in college. 

“Largely overlooked but hugely valuable, it’s a talent pool that’s not utilized very frequently,” said Raphael Rosenblatt, Senior Director of Employer Solutions for Grads of Life. “By going to an alternative talent source, it opens a whole new pipeline to bring into your pool.”

The talent source needs some training to become effective service team professionals, but it’s made up of individuals who are loyal to the organizations that invest in training them.

“Opportunity youth stay in their careers a lot longer than other talent pools,” Rosenblatt said. “Another benefit is these individuals are coming in with limited priors. By investing in this talent pool, you can make sure they do it your way the first time and every time after that.”

The Apartment Association of Metro Denver (AAMD) and the Atlanta Apartment Association (AAA) are trying to do just that by creating their own training programs that feed certified associates into maintenance tech positions.

The AAMD operates a six-week Maintenance Apprenticeship Program that offers 48 hours of technical training and 100-plus hours of paid, on-the-job training.  They’ve partnered with 38 management companies, three staffing agencies and one technical college to help place graduates in difficult situations into full-time positions.

“Some of our candidates that have come to me are homeless or close to homeless,” said Lisa Godbehere, Director of Education and Career Development for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver. “This program has changed people’s lives. They finally get that chance, and they’re  set for a career path in this industry.”

The AAA’s Service Training Academy provides career changers and recent high school grads with four industry certifications and hands-on training. The program has partnered with over 50 member companies to place service technicians in communities throughout Atlanta. Each participant is completely immersed in the multifamily housing employment experience.

“That’s something that we pride ourselves on is completely immersing these students in multifamily,” said Lisa Russo, Workforce Development Manager for the Atlanta Apartment Association. “We are all sitting in this room because multifamily is a wonderful place to be.”