Maintenance needs to build interest to replace a retiring workforce

July 7, 2005
Joel Leonard says that we need to figure out a way to generate interest in the maintenance profession in order to adequately replace a rapidly retiring work force.

It’s becoming common knowledge that a maintenance crisis is brewing. About 70% of the trained workforce will be retiring in the next 10 years. What can we do to generate interest in the profession and increase the number of qualified replacements?

  • Create a Retired Operations and Plant Engineering (ROPE) service. ROPE could be the lifeline needed to keep our plants competitive once the baby boomer generation retires. Meanwhile, consider hiring retired maintenance workers as part-time planners to take advantage of the valuable knowledge that is walking out of your plant.
  • Develop a national maintenance hotline. Manned by retired maintenance professionals from ROPE or other experts, a hotline could help the next generation address the many maintenance problems that will be unfamiliar to them.
  • Build reliability development zones. Identify areas where manufacturing jobs are disappearing as reliability development zones, and train and certify the jobless. With a shortage of skilled labor nationwide, companies will migrate to these areas to take advantage of their surplus of reliability expertise.
  • Identify repairatory schools. Create magnet tech schools — not the four-year preparatory schools that traditional tech schools are becoming, but true technical programs that provide principle-based maintenance training. MPACT
    Learning Center is a successful example.
  • Consider untapped resources. I’ve noticed that reenactor regiments — groups that replicate past war events — develop and advocate strong hand-made skills and self-reliance philosophies. If you value those attributes, learn more at
  • Recognize and reward excellence. Reward companies on the basis of regular maintenance audits performed by licensed consultants. Those organizations that receive high marks should receive insurance breaks and tax cuts. 

If you have proven techniques or additional ideas, please send them to me to share with your fellow professionals.

E-mail Joel Leonard at [email protected].