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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Forum asked to support Facilities plan to address skilled trades shortage

Facilities Services faces a looming shortage of skilled trades staff, such as electricians, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, HVAC technicians and brickmasons.

Michele Bowen, training specialist in Finance and Administration’s Continuous Improvement and Staff Development department, came to the Oct. 4 Employee Forum meeting to bring the delegates’ attention to a looming shortage of skilled trades staff for Facilities Services, a group rarely mentioned in terms of recruitment and retention.

“Facilities is aging out. They are well trained and have a lot of experience, but they are retiring and taking that training and experience with them,” Bowen said.

To take advantage of that experience before it goes out the door – and to add younger staff members who can take on the work – Bowen’s office has launched a skilled trades training initiative that brings together seasoned staff members and high school or community college students looking for a career.

The initiative benefits students who aren’t looking for a four-year degree but want to work for more than minimum wage as electricians, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, masons, HVAC technicians or other skilled trade positions. The University benefits from being able to train young employees to replace a retiring workforce.

Through the initiative, the University recruits students in area high school career technical education programs and community colleges for temporary paid on-the-job training at the University.

The “paid” part is critical to the initiative’s success, Bowen said. “When we bring the students in, we want to pay them. And the money for the temporary positions has to be much more than minimum wage. The market is on their side, not our side.”

In other action, the forum: