OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – If you live in an apartment complex or multi-family unit and an appliance breaks, or your HVAC goes out, you’re likely going to call the maintenance team at your facility.
But these days, those workers are hard to come by.
“The need is greater than we’ve ever seen,” says Rhonda Pederson, the Executive Director of the Apartment Association of Nebraska.
Part of the issue lies in the number of apartment complexes that are going up across the state, but Pederson says they’re necessary.
“Last year when we spoke, we talked about needing approximately 2,000 units to come online annually just to meet demand, and I believe that that number is actually on the low side, I think that if we were looking around 3,000 unites around the state to come online annually I think they could easily be absorbed.”
With those complexes comes the need for employees to help run them.
“Most apartment communities currently are looking for leasing staff, property managers, regional managers, and of course maintenance technicians and maintenance supervisors,” she says. “One thing that I was continuously hearing from our members was the need that we just need trained maintenance technicians coming on board.”
“Right now, there are enough openings, positions, vacancies for maintenance technicians for existing complexes so as new ones go up we don’t have enough technicians to fill the need,” says Chuck Ketchum, who has been a multi-family maintenance worker for 25 years.
“There were years ago that I could turn around and bump into a fella that does maintenance, now I could turn around and throw a stone and not hit a person that does maintenance,” Ketchum adds.
To combat the shortage of workers, Pederson and Ketchum helped start the Nebraska Maintenance Academy.
“It’s a program designed to instruct folks to the beginnings and basics of multi-family maintenance, your basic carpentries, plumbing electrical, HVAC, appliance, and at the end of the program have them gain full employment for a long term career,” Ketchum says.
The program last 12 weeks and at most costs $4,500.
However, students have the ability to make money while learning. In the mornings, students are in the classroom with Ketchum. In the afternoons, they’re on-site with maintenance workers at complexes learning and helping, getting paid for their work.
“We’ve got a current class just about to graduate in the next two days, and everybody’s got a job offer. They all have a job,” Ketchum says.
“I have usually around 15 to 20 apartment communities looking for graduates from our program so we just keep a waitlist running,” Pederson says. “We’re also receiving phone calls from nonmembers and then people outside of multi-family industry so hotels and corporate units are looking for tech as well.”
“The need is great. I think if we had 100 applicants come through the Nebraska Maintenance Academy program, we could easily help them to find jobs in our state.”
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