University Business October 2019 - 33

FILLING
THE
LABOR
BUCKET
4 ways to address the staff shortages of today-and tomorrow
By Heather Kerrigan

ON SOLID GROUND-Michigan State University's landscape and grounds team is responsible for
maintaining 1,500 acres of green space, 57 miles of roadways and 22,000 trees. Among the department's
many services is the installation of roadway and wayfinding signage.

W

hile open faculty positions
pose big challenges for colleges
trying to maintain (core) business as usual, staff-level employee shortages are a huge headache on some campuses. After all, problems with building
basics like plumbing and HVAC systems
typically require immediate attention.
Employee shortages at the staff level
are acute in skilled trade positions such
as carpenters, electricians and machinists,
CUPA-HR research has found. Although
these jobs comprise the smallest percentage of the higher education staff workforce, they're "growing at nearly triple the
rate of office/clerical and service/maintenance positions combined," says Missy
UniversityBusiness.com

Kline, the organization's spokesperson.
"It's getting harder and harder to find
people with the skills needed and who can
hit the ground running, and it's harder to
retain them," says Dan Bollman, who has
spent 29 years at Michigan State University and is currently vice president for strategic infrastructure planning and facilities.
Higher ed institutions face multifaceted challenges in hiring and retaining
workers in the skilled trades. Besides the
lack of qualified job candidates, a retirement issue looms. CUPA-HR found that
nearly half of the skilled trade staff on
campuses around the country are age 55
or older. When they depart, they will take
with them years of institutional knowl-

edge and critical job skills that younger
workers don't necessarily have.
The nationwide college-prep push
exacerbates the issue. High schoolers are
regularly told that college is a must-have
for a successful career, and choosing trade
school over college often carries a stigma.
"It's an interesting paradigm," says
Pete Strazdas, past international president
for the organization APPA-Leadership
in Educational Facilities. "Everyone goes
to college and doesn't go into the skilled

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University Business October 2019

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