NEST and Industry Leaders Establish Skilled Trades Advisory Council to Tackle Labor Shortage

In a collaborative effort, NEST, an integrated facilities management company, has teamed up with key figures from the construction, retail, and skilled trades sectors to launch the Skilled Trades Advisory Council. This initiative, announced on August 23, aims to address the pressing skilled labor shortage impacting both the United States and Canada, according to a NEST press release.

The council’s leadership, which encompasses a diverse spectrum of critical trades, intends to leverage their collective “resources, knowledge, and network” to elevate the perception of trades as lucrative, esteemed, and even “heroic” career paths, as stated by NEST in their release. By means of educational events, construction camps, fundraising efforts, and scholarships, the council aims to promote awareness of these trades while aligning with the expertise of its leaders, as noted by NEST CEO Rob Almond.

Presently, there is a significant decline in the number of young individuals seeking technical jobs, with a 49% drop in application rates from 2020 to 2022, as reported by Handshake, an online recruiting platform. This decrease in applicants exacerbates the ongoing issue posed by the retiring wave of older technicians and facility management staff, coupled with the increasing demand for multifaceted skill sets encompassing technical skills, hands-on training, and software-based knowledge.

Approximately 4.8 million out of the total 12 million skilled trades workers are aged 45 and above, with nearly half surpassing 55 years, as highlighted by staffing agency PeopleReady.

Randy Fink, Managing Director of Property Management at JLL, explained, “Finding top talent has always been difficult. It’s even more difficult now.” Fink referred to the dwindling pool of experienced staff in the industry due to factors like the so-called “gray tsunami,” an exodus of seasoned professionals, especially in engineering, maintenance, and property management fields.

NEST’s Almond emphasized that the Skilled Trades Advisory Council isn’t solely focused on addressing the demand for technical skills in areas like HVAC, refrigeration, electrical work, and plumbing. It also aims to raise awareness about other less visibly sought-after trades, such as janitorial services, landscaping, snow removal, locksmithing, and painting.

NEST, renowned for its management of facilities, financial consulting, project management, and construction services for multi-state brands in North America, initiated this venture due to concerns voiced by its suppliers, contractors, and collaborators. Almond noted that these stakeholders were experiencing exhaustion due to the scarcity of available labor.

The council’s initial efforts will concentrate on specific regions such as Austin, Texas, San Francisco, and Dallas, where NEST’s suppliers and clients are situated. Almond expressed uncertainty about the exact trajectory over the next three years, stating, “What does that three-year plan look like? We have no idea. We just wanted to say, ‘Let’s drive awareness first and see how far we can take this.'”

According to JLL’s Fink, the industry is not only being compelled to offer better compensation but is also being pushed to focus on training to alleviate labor shortages. “I think the second part is developing talent,” he noted. Teams capable of effectively recruiting and training are poised to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver value.

NEST’s involvement in sponsoring a construction camp in Philadelphia from July 6 to August 11, organized by the National Association of Women in Construction, showcases their commitment to fostering new talent. The camp, led by Mary Gaffney, President of the NAWIC Philadelphia Foundation and GEM Mechanical Services, educated over 40 young women in areas like plumbing, electrical work, handyman safety, engineering, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

Gaffney expressed her desire to attract women to the trades, underscoring the fulfillment and independence such careers can provide. She now occupies a position in the founding advisory council of the Skilled Trades Advisory Council, exemplifying the collaboration and programs that the council aspires to establish.

Almond concluded by emphasizing the urgency of the situation and the need to swiftly address it: “If we can just do this and build upon it, we can really get in front of something that needs a lot of attention. It needs it quick.”

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