Initiative could fuel Ontario’s FM talent pipeline

Thursday, May 18, 2017

An IFMA Foundation initiative designed to plug holes in the FM talent pipeline could be coming to Ontario. Jeff Tafel, executive director of the IFMA Foundation, speaking Wednesday at Facility Fusion Canada in Toronto, said that bringing a project piloted in the U.S. to the province was on the agenda in morning meetings.

“We’re just starting an Ontario-specific initiative. We want to do the same kind of things we did in California here, and at this point we’re seriously looking into the likelihood of actually starting an IFMA Foundation of Canada,” said Tafel. “It will be the same mission, the same effort, the same templates, but we’ll be able to raise money here in Canada, keep the money here in Canada, to make this all happen here.”

The pilot project came as part of the IFMA Foundation’s global workforce initiative, which has the goal of making facility management a career of choice. Too few people plan to enter the field, Tafel said, so the initiative has focused on reaching high school students and professionals in other fields, related or not, contemplating a career switch.

Carried out in San Bernardino, California, the pilot project was instructive for the IFMA Foundation in figuring out how to get into classrooms to showcase facility management as a possible career path. The challenge, said Tafel, was that high school teachers wanted to know where, locally, to refer interested students for education and training before introducing them to the profession. However, local colleges and universities wanted assurance that there was a pool of interested students before rolling out education and training.

The IFMA Foundation eventually found an education partner in San Bernardino County. The partner identified other stakeholders that would need to be involved to gain traction, said Tafel, such as key employers who could create internship opportunities.

Tafel said that since then, the IFMA Foundation’s Essentials of Facility Management materials have become available to all 113 schools in California’s community college system. So far, one community college in San Bernardino is on board to introduce the materials to its curriculum, with another eight community colleges poised to launch two-year facility management programs.

Through the pilot project, Tafel said the IFMA Foundation also learned that facility managers were in such short supply in southern California that hiring managers were primarily promoting from within. As a result, there was a need for training applicable to these mid-career professionals. This has created an impetus to ensure a full range of options, from the Facility Management Professional (FMP) designation to four-year programs, are available at colleges and universities.

The initiative has since rolled out to Texas, where progress has been swift now that the IFMA Foundation has a formula for success, said Tafel. Identifying existing facility management programs at colleges and universities is part of that formula.

The initiative is also being introduced in the northeastern corridor, and now Ontario is on the horizon.

“Our goal is to have a number of colleges and universities within 24 months offering all levels of education programming,” Tafel said of the Ontario-specific initiative.

The IFMA Foundation is also developing materials to support volunteers who go to speak to students in programs such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) about the facility management profession, he said. And a website designed to inform students about careers in FM is due to go live in time for World Workplace in the fall.

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