Discussing strategies on how to replace the baby boomer generation as they enter retirement has been a hot topic at the 2020 Virtual BOMA International Conference & Expo.
In the buildings energy efficiency workforce, in particular, research shows challenges that include low interest in HVAC careers in students, confusing career pathways, lack of diversity, and lack of continuing education in efficiency, as highlighted in Thursday’s session “Integrating ESG into Workforce Development.”
However, there is hope. As revealed by panelist Hannah Debelius, a Science, Technology, and Policy Fellow for the Department of Energy, many in the industry are working to address the skills gap and attract talent through targeted workforce initiatives.
There are even some organizations like international property and infrastructure group Lendlease and commercial real estate firm CBRE that are looking beyond just the workforce and are taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into consideration as well.
For example, panelist Chun Yee Yip, Lendlease’s director of external partnerships, shared how the firm thinks about social equity and social sustainability when it comes to company values.
She suggested that when it comes to the labor shortage and addressing the underrepresentation of minorities and women in trades specifically, companies should start with “mitigating barriers for job seekers.” This includes:
Creating pathways for employment
Integrating diversity and inclusion into hiring efforts
Collaborating with partnerships to drive change
Yip noted that all the different workforce development areas, like recruitment and assessment, training, job placement, and more, should be addressed vs. focusing on one in particular.
She also stressed the importance of engaging with partnerships to promote workforce participation, as partners are typically the ones “on the ground” carrying out initiatives.
Utilizing Workforce Development Programs
Having official programs that include ESG factors to initiative within your company can also help with workforce development.
Panelist Raymond Congdon, director of engineering for ISS/Hewlett Packard at CBRE, shared how the firm has created a successful CBRE Sustainable Tech Program to help close the skills gap in the buildings industry.
“We were seeing the business grow, but noticing that the talent bench was drying up,” Congdon said. He shared that the company determined it needed to focus more on promoting from within and look for a new talent pipeline, which was part of why the program was created.
The CBRE Sustainable Tech Program includes several components:
Tech entry program
Tech career development program
Tech certification program
Outreach and recruiting
Each one focuses on a different area of development and includes opportunities for an apprenticeship, cultivating internal talent, improving labor skills, certification, and so on.
“The idea of the program is that [laborers] build themselves through the ranks as subject matter experts,” said Congdon.
Although the labor shortage in the buildings industry can’t be fixed overnight, creating and implementing a proper plan that takes multiple factors like ESG components into consideration can put the industry on the right path to closing the gap.
By building interest, streamlining career pathways, and improving skills, a building energy efficiency workforce can be created that is good for both businesses and the communities around them.