How to address the skills shortage in maintenance

How to address the skills shortage in maintenance

March 8, 2024
Bridging the gap takes a little strategic planning and some key tactics.

In industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, maintenance plays a critical role in ensuring the smooth operation of equipment and facilities. However, a growing concern looms over these industries: the skills shortage in maintenance. 

This shortage is not just a matter of finding warm bodies to fill roles, but rather a complex issue that demands strategic solutions. Understanding the nature of this shortage and its implications is key to developing effective strategies to bridge the gap.

The nature of the skills shortage

The skills shortage in maintenance is multifaceted, stemming from various factors:

  1. Technological Advancements: As equipment becomes more complex and technologically advanced, the skills required to maintain them also evolve. Many maintenance professionals lack the training and expertise to work with modern machinery, leading to a gap in skills.
  2. Aging Workforce: In many industries, a significant portion of the maintenance workforce is approaching retirement age. As these experienced workers retire, there are not enough younger workers with the necessary skills to replace them.
  3. Perception of Maintenance Work: Maintenance work is often seen as less glamorous than other professions, leading to fewer people pursuing careers in this field. This perception gap contributes to a shortage of skilled workers entering the maintenance workforce.
  4. Lack of Training Programs: In some regions or industries, there may be a lack of training programs that provide the specific skills needed for maintenance roles. This limits the pipeline of skilled workers entering the field.

Implications of the skills shortage

The skills shortage in maintenance has several implications for industries and organizations:

  1. Increased Downtime: Without enough skilled maintenance professionals, organizations may experience more frequent equipment breakdowns and longer downtime, impacting productivity and profitability.
  2. Higher Costs: Organizations may need to rely more on outsourcing maintenance work or hiring contractors, which can be more costly than having an in-house maintenance team.
  3. Safety Concerns: Inadequate maintenance can lead to safety hazards in the workplace, posing risks to employees and potentially resulting in accidents or injuries.
  4. Competitive Disadvantage: Organizations that cannot maintain their equipment effectively may fall behind competitors who can operate more efficiently and reliably.

Addressing the skills shortage

To address the skills shortage in maintenance, organizations and policymakers can consider the following strategies:

  1. Invest in Training and Education: Develop and expand training programs that provide the specific skills needed for modern maintenance roles. This includes technical skills related to machinery and equipment, as well as soft skills such as problem-solving and teamwork.
  2. Promote the Field: Raise awareness about the opportunities and rewards of a career in maintenance. Highlight the importance of maintenance work in keeping industries running smoothly and showcase the potential for advancement and growth in the field.
  3. Modernize Recruitment Practices: Use innovative recruitment methods, such as targeting younger demographics through social media and online platforms. Emphasize the value of diversity and inclusion in the maintenance workforce.
  4. Collaborate with Educational Institutions: Partner with schools, colleges, and vocational training centers to develop curriculum that aligns with the skills needed in maintenance roles. Provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience through internships or apprenticeships.
  5. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits: To attract and retain skilled maintenance professionals, organizations should offer competitive compensation packages that reflect the value of their work. This includes not only salary but also benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and professional development opportunities.


The skills shortage in maintenance is a pressing issue that requires proactive and collaborative solutions. By investing in training, promoting the field, and modernizing recruitment practices, organizations can attract and retain skilled maintenance professionals. Addressing the skills shortage not only benefits individual organizations but also contributes to the overall efficiency, safety, and sustainability of industries and economies.

About the Author

Joe Anderson

Joe Anderson is a partner and chief operating officer for ReliabilityX. Joe helps companies reach their full potential through improvement gains and lowering costs, giving them a competitive advantage on their journey to excellence. As an active columnist in Plant Services magazine, Joe shares his over 25 years of experience in maintenance, reliability and management excellence in various industries with the world through his writing. He is a CMRP, CRL, CARO, MLT2, MLA1, LSSGB, IAM-55k, CRL Black Belt and was recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country by the United States Congress, being awarded the National Leadership Award. He has also brought humor to the world through his experiences, and it can be seen in the character creation of Captain Unreliability.

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