Community Engagement
STEM Education to build the FM Workplace
Michael Norris
Michael Norris

Jobs requiring skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are a rich source of employment opportunities and economic growth in the U.S. Nearly 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and science, and yet U.S. student achievement in both disciplines lags behind students in Asia and Europe. Many job vacancies go unfilled, particularly in facilities management (FM), and the economy is lagging as a result.

FM is a booming business. In the U.S. alone, the FM industry manages over 37 billion square feet of property and purchases more than $100 billion in products and services each year. A career in FM offers nearly 100% job placement rates along with excellent salaries—and yet few young people are prepared to enter the field today. Instead, the number of FM skilled workers is declining; more than 50% of today’s FM workers are baby boomers who will retire in the next 10 years.

IFMA is a non-profit organization with a mission to make facilities management a career choice for young people. Since their inception in 1980, they have accredited 31 FM degree programs at 28 colleges and universities, and raised more than $1.2 million in scholarship funds for FM students in the programs. It’s a start, but there are still far too few FM graduates to fill vacancies.

The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) is helping to close the gap. The IFMA is a non-profit organization with a mission to make facilities management a career choice for young people. Since their inception in 1980, they have accredited 31 FM degree programs at 28 colleges and universities, and raised more than $1.2 million in scholarship funds for FM students in the programs. The organization’s newest program, the Global Workforce Initiative (GWI) will introduce FM careers to younger students. Through GWI, the Foundation acts as a connector between business, government, secondary schools, communities, colleges and universities to offer students content-rich internship programs to pique interest in the FM profession. Internships are a proven way to attract talent and retain a skilled FM workforce. You can learn more about the GWI in the 2015 Workplace Trends Report.

Wendy Foster is a great success story. When she was 12, she joined an after-school STEM program. She learned about cloud mobility and big data in a lab offered by Cisco. A program at Cornell Tech gave her an integrated disciplinary background and an MBA with a focus on managing the workplace. Today, Wendy is a Workforce Strategist for a leading technology firm in Silicon Valley.

Wendy’s story is real, but it is rare. We must prepare the next generation of STEM leaders for success in the workplace and spread the word about opportunities in FM. Students and parents need to know that a career in FM is a great choice. A degree in facilities management offers an exciting career in a field with high-paying jobs, career growth and nearly 100% placement.

By exposing more pre-college students to FM professions and building their mastery of STEM skills, we can close the growing workforce gap in FM and other STEM-related professions. We must prepare and encourage younger students to be interested in STEM to fill the seats in a growing number of accredited degree programs worldwide. Let’s start building the future today!

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Michael Norris is President & COO, Corporate Services for Sodexo.

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