Not all companies will be able to implement a program like this one in Hawaii, but there’s no question the cleaning industry will need skilled workers like those coming out of the Ho’okipa Workforce Academy.

In the United States, it’s not just a third of the janitors facing retirement, but also a third of front-line supervisors who are aged 55 and older, according to BLS. Exact figures for the cleaning industry are unavailable, but its likely that all positions up the company ladder will see mass vacancies in the near future because of Baby Boomer retirement.

“The industry is aging,” says John Barrett, vice chairman of SMS Assist in Chicago and recent member of ISSA’s Young Executive Society (YES) coordinator
committee. “A lot of the senior management that founded and managed these companies are getting to an age where they need to transition. Whether it’s a family-oriented company or a corporate entity, they need to bring in new talent to replace the talent that is retiring.”

Regardless of what position building service contractors are looking to fill, service-oriented industries such as janitorial, hospitality and facility management are often passed over and forgotten. No kid goes to college to break into the cleaning industry. Millennials are interested in fields like technology, medical and entertainment, according to the 2013 Millennial Career Survey by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).

“At first blush, I imagine most young people would scoff at our industry — I know I did,” says Barrett. “But there are some very exciting careers for enterprising young people.”

According to some studies, a career in one field is very important to Millennials. Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business found that 48 percent of Millennials want to work for only one or two companies in their career. In fact, only 15 percent of respondents replied they wanted to work for multiple companies.

These results run contrary to BLS statistics showing that the average tenure for workers ages 25 to 34 was 3.2 years. In addition, a survey from Future Workplaces echoes similar sentiments showing that 91 percent of Millennials stay at a job for less than three years.

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle. What Millennials really want is career advancement and are quick to leave a job when they can’t move up the ladder. Millennials aspire to be leaders — 78 percent according to Bentley University — and the janitorial industry is well-suited for these ambitions.

“The industry is so big, there is so much opportunity,” says Barrett. “An individual can make a huge difference and be rewarded for their contributions.”

Whether Millennials stay three years or 30 at a job, those in the workforce today are looking for stability, according to Bentley’s “Millennials in the Workplace” survey. After years of recession and seeing loved ones laid off or forced into early retirement, Millennials want a job with solid footing. And this is another selling point BSCs can use to attract new, young talent.

“Our jobs are more secure than just about any other management team,” says Paul Greenland, president of Aetna Building Maintenance, Columbus, Ohio. “You can’t outsource janitorial to a foreign country.”

While not recession proof, cleaning is very recession resistant. Yes, during the Great Recession facilities reduced cleaning frequencies by as much as 20 percent. But cleaning didn’t go away 100 percent.

“People always need their buildings cleaned,” says Greenland. “There will always be people to manage.”

A collaborative workplace is also important to Millennial workers. The NSHSS study shows that nearly 40 percent of Millennials want the opportunity for teamwork at their job. In cleaning companies, not only can the young worker be a part of the group, but his or her skills can make a difference in the company.

“People in our management group are able to affect change much better than in a big company,” says Greenland. “They can be a huge part of the process. They want to be a part of the front-line decision making.”

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