The trade skills gap facing the facilities industry compounds every year.

How should we address this problem?

In 2012, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article called Who Can Fix the “Middle-Skills’ Gap? The authors, Thomas A. Kochan, David Finegold, and Paul Osterman, studied the most effective means of addressing the skills gap, and our experiences here at C&W Services closely aligns with their insights.

First, the authors posit that programs that bring together multiple employers in a region or industry sector are very effective. We believe in this model and are a passionate founding supporter of IFMA’s Global Workforce Initiative (GWI), which is about collaboration, not competition, within the industry. With the GWI, we partner with other facilities management companies to make facilities a career of choice and to develop meaningful career paths in the field. It’s worth noting, IFMA’s GWI posits that more than half of today’s facilities management (FM) practitioners are expected to retire in the next 5-15 years.

The Harvard Business Review’s second major insight was that classroom education integrated with hands-on experience is a proven way to help adults learn. The authors found that training that focuses on career pathways, not just skills for the initial job, is most effective. That’s why, at C&W Services, we’re focused on strengthening our apprenticeship opportunities.

We’ve offered apprenticeship programs locally and on accounts with strong connections to trade schools for years, but this fall we are formalizing our program and launching our first registered nationwide C&W Services apprenticeship program. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are more than 21,000 registered apprenticeship programs in the U.S., and C&W Services is thrilled to be officially joining as a sponsor in Massachusetts, with future plans to expand in other states.

In addition to IFMA’s GWI, we are also working with a number of other workforce and economic development boards to establish awareness of our new formal program.

About our apprenticeship program.

Our newly developed apprenticeship program takes two years to complete as we mentor our apprentices with rigorous on-the-job training, alongside their studies at a local college or trade school. Currently focused on HVAC technicians; Industrial Mechanics and Automated Systems; and electricians, our apprentices mix classroom-based study with hands-on training at select C&W Services client sites. The on-the-job training varies by account team, but most of our apprentices assume 20-hour part-time positions. Apprentices are paid and we cover tuition. We’ve leveraged local partnership opportunities to provide a structured program using established curriculums.

We recognize that a number of labor organizations are sponsors of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. In geographies where C&W operates and is signatory to a local labor agreement and there is an existing apprenticeship program, we will work with the local labor organization to support their existing apprenticeship programs. And where we are signatory to a labor agreement and no apprenticeship program already exists, we will work with the labor organization to recognize our program.

Apprenticeships go deeper than the process and programming.

According to HBR, the number of apprenticeship programs in the U.S. has actually declined since 1998, even though there’s evidence that these programs succeed in their goal of providing meaningful career pathways to participants. The HBR article also proposes that the key factor in establishing skills ecosystems is to find one person in an organization who can unite a wide range of stakeholders, including company leadership, local policy makers, and skills providers like schools. They called this position the Network Integrator. Here at C&W Services, Ericka Westgard, Senior Director of Workforce Strategy, plays this role.

Ericka, who authored our popular three-part blog series on Traps Facilities Managers Fall Into, is committed to partnering with cross-functional teams active in our inaugural apprenticeship program. Ericka builds alignment with customers, account leaders, human resources training specialists, platform leaders, and many others to ensure a smooth onboarding experience.

A solid foundation.

Ericka has developed partnerships with Laney College, IBT, Remington College, and The Peterson School, and she has placed members of our inaugural apprenticeship class at client sites in Massachusetts, Texas, and California. Learn more about our latest group of apprentices, and stay tuned for more information about this program as it continues to grow.