Why is there a continued shortage of skilled maintenance professionals? Although the average U.S. skilled maintenance worker makes $28 an hour with benefits, excluding (in most situations) almost unlimited overtime opportunities, companies continue to complain about the difficulty of locating qualified workers. With the pending retirements of the majority of boomers and the lack of interest by future generations to pursue skill development, this is particularly troubling. In a time when global competition is the fiercest ever, new equipment is increasingly sophisticated, and existing infrastructure is aging and requiring more maintenance, our society will experience a severe talent shortfall.
Most agree that there’s a stigma associated with workers doing manual work, and industrial maintenance is widely considered the equivalent of janitorial or landscaping work. In a society that lauds the use of intellectual capacity, the fact that maintenance personnel also have to apply manual labor to repair machinery or other assets pulls our image down.
Perhaps a contributing cause is that as a society, we don’t celebrate, honor or pay respect to this vital function that drives our economy. Meanwhile, organizations honor a whole host of other occupations by inducting significant leaders into various halls of fame. Perform a Google search on the term “hall of fame” and you’ll uncover Web sites honoring everyone from astronauts to entertainers and the sports heroes of football, hockey, baseball, basketball, bowling, tennis, fencing and wrestling. (Oh, I see that Jimmy “The Superfly” Snuka was just inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.) There’s even a hall of fame for sports reporters, musicians from rock and roll, country, classical, gospel and professions including inventors, entrepreneurs, nurses, teachers, cowboys, mining and police. Racers of automobiles, motorcycles and even snowmobiles get recognition.
Believe it or not, there’s a Santa Claus Elf Hall of Fame. It also appears that any clown can earn the right to get into the International Clown Hall of Fame. But maintenance workers, who put in an average 60-plus hours a week troubleshooting problems, fighting lost uptime and making worn, outdated equipment purr get no recognition for their heroic and creative efforts to advance our society.
Everyone else appears to be able to get recognition for outstanding work. To add insult to injury, robots, who aren’t even human, have a hall of fame. They don’t, however, recognize those who keep the robots in top condition. There’s even a hall of fame for the various hall of fame Web sites.
That’s why I decided to start the Fix It Forward Maintenance Hall of Fame, so titled to pay tribute to past contributions and inspire others to pitch in and help us Fix It Forward for future generations.
The Fix It Forward Maintenance Hall of Fame will include both the well-known and unknown among us who exhibit the qualities of a maintenance professional that we all admire. We want the unsung heroes — the anonymous consistent performers — as well as the unconventional innovators and renowned professionals in the field. As with any Hall of Fame, the inductees will be a well-rounded group representing the many categories throughout the profession who exhibit tireless, consistent and high-quality dedication to maintenance.
Contact Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at [email protected].