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How Trade Schools and CTE Programs Can Help Fill the FM Gap

It’s no secret the FM industry is facing a major shortage of skilled professionals. In fact, skilled trade positions are now the hardest jobs to fill in the United States. According to some estimates, there are more than one million vacant jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector alone. Considering these shocking statistics, it sometimes seems there will never be enough qualified, skilled workers to fill all the open facilities management positions.

Fortunately, there is hope for the future. Trade and technical schools are working diligently to groom students to fill the cavernous skilled trades gap. These schools are like untapped gold mines for the facilities management industry.

Known as career and technical education (CTE), these programs prepare students for an array of high-skill, high-demand careers, including those in the retail facilities management arena. CTE serves 94 percent of all high school students, including males and females from a wide range of backgrounds. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent. In the 2013-2014 school year, there were more than 7.5 million high school CTE participants (students who took at least one credit of CTE), according to the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education.

On the postsecondary level, CTE students are also a diverse group, but more likely to be older, married and working part or full-time. There were nearly four million postsecondary CTE participants and 121,952 adult CTE participants in the 2013-2014 school year.

“CTE provides students with the skills needed in a variety of facilities management areas, including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, landscaping and energy management,” explained Dean Baker, Manufacturing Technology and Machining Instructor with Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City and Trade & Industrial Education Division Vice President for The Association for Career and Technical Education® (ACTE). ACTE is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers.

The association’s Trade and Industrial Education Division was created to promote the philosophy and objectives of trade and industrial education across the nation. Baker said retail facilities management companies should consider turning to ACTE as they struggle to fill open skilled trade positions. “ACTE can be an excellent resource for finding these programs in the areas of interest for PRSM members,” Baker added.

Make the Trade

According to Baker, there are countless ways service companies and retailers can work with CTE programs to build partnerships and fill the skills gap. Here are just a few options:


“One way for service companies and retailers to enhance programs is to reach out to CTE Educational Institutions in their area and volunteer to serve on an advisory committee, or assist with local Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) leadership and skills contests,” Baker pointed out. You could also volunteer to do a class presentation in your area of interest or personal expertise, he suggested.

Teach a class

If you’re looking to join forces with a CTE program and recruit soon-to-be graduates, you may also consider teaching a class in your specialty trade. However, there may be different credentialing requirements in your area.

“Different states and CTE Educational Institutions have particular procedures that they must adhere to,” Baker explained. “PRSM members should reach out to the CTE Educational Institutions in their respective states and areas and inquire about the requirements. Many states and CTE Institutions have alternative licensing for skilled trade and industry representatives.”

Offer scholarships

What better way to win over future tech professionals than to help pay for their education? “Scholarships for students pursuing a certification or degree at a CTE Institution are an excellent avenue for PRSM members to incentivize a particular skill set that they see a present or future need for,” Baker emphasized.

Hire interns

Work-to-hire programs are yet another effective way for retailers and service companies to tap into tech schools. “Internships for students enrolled in a program of interest for PRSM members are another way to help incentivize student interest and involvement in these CTE programs,” Baker said. “PRSM companies should contact CTE Institutions in their areas and propose an internship that can meet the needs of all involved.”

Reward teachers

Last but not least, PRSM members can connect with tech schools by offering awards to outstanding teachers and institutions.

“CTE teacher and institution awards are another way to promote and attract quality instruction in PRSM members required skill sets,” Baker said. For instance, Harbor Freight recently awarded 10 CTE teachers and institutions a shared cash reward for their excellence in teaching and facilities. “The top three award winners shared a $10,000 cash award,” he explained. “ACTE worked with Harbor Freight to assist them with these awards for quality CTE education.”

Boundless Benefits

Trade and technical schools could be the silver bullet for retailers and service companies looking to fill the skills gap. According to Baker, there are endless advantages to working with these schools.

“One benefit is PRSM members can be involved via Advisory Councils/Committees with CTE Institutions to assist in awareness of evolving technologies and innovations in a particular career field,” he said. “Working with CTE Institutions, especially via Advisory Councils/Committees, allows companions to identify areas currently available and provide input and financial incentives.”

Of course, another major advantage is gaining access to classrooms full of skilled workers in training. “By working with CTE Institutions, PRSM members can attract local talent to their organizations and benefit the community as well,” Baker said.

Baker encourages PRSM members to lean on ACTE if they want to reach CTE programs on a national level. “ACTE is an organization that works with and for CTE institutions and teachers, and it would be beneficial to reach these institutions and teachers nationally,” he said. Additionally, ACTE works at the national policy level for all of CTE, he said, which also ultimately benefits retailers and service companies.

For more information about ACTE, visit

By: Amy Bell

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