A persistent though unofficial theme at this year’s BOMEX is the increasing average age of commercial real estate professionals and a need for continuing education for everyone in the industry. BOMEX — the annual Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada Conference — was held in St. John’s Newfoundland, September 26 & 27th.
A glance around the BOMEX conference room at a sea of greying heads was antidotal confirmation of the need for new recruits. There was also a session at the conference devoted to ‘Where are The Future Leaders?’ and a contingent of College of the North Atlantic students was invited to attend the event to encourage pursuit of a commercial real estate career.
A Building Operators Scoping Study
Putting tangible information to a well-known concern, a report by Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) of Canada titled A Building Operators Scoping Study was released in the spring of this year. The report is described as the first formal attempt to investigate the profession of building operator in Canada. The report can be downloaded from the ECO Canada website .
The Scoping Study, led by a fourteen-member steering committee comprised of public and private sector individuals, examined the current labour market of building operators in the commercial and institutional sectors. Its goal was to define the occupation and identify mechanisms to assist building operators in adapting to the requirements of a sustainably built and operated environment.
New high performance ‘green’ buildings and the associated proliferation of more sophisticated operational requirements are challenging the capabilities of building managers and operators. The building operator has become a critical player in setting and maintaining environmental goals with its associated corporate benefits such as cost savings, healthy work places and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting.
Automated building systems, tenant engagement in environmental programs, monitoring waste management programs, commissioning and re-commissioning are tasks that simply didn’t exist ten years ago for which there has been little to no on-the-job training. While there are educational opportunities through community colleges and Building Owners and Managers Institute (BOMI) according to the report they are inadequate for the existing requirements of the position.
The blunt assessment of Mel James, President of CFMS while presenting at the BOMEX conference and whose company specializes in building re-commissioning is that the lack of training and experience in buildings of the building operators he encountered during his work is ‘horrifying’.
The Average Age of a Calgary Building Operators is 55
BOMA Calgary, an instigator of the scoping study, has identified a requirement for 1,700 building operators in Alberta’s major cities. With an average age of 55 for existing building operators, and accounting for retirements and attrition, a need for 340 new building operators annually (100 to 150 in Calgary alone) is foreseen. Based on current trends a shortage of qualified people is anticipated over the next five to ten years.
BOMA Canada Endorses Follow-up To Building Operators Scoping Study
At a meeting convened at BOMEX, BOMA Canada agreed to collaborate with Natural Resources Canada (NRC) and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to follow-up on the recommendations of the Scoping Study. A taskforce of organizations is being formed to provide direction for the next steps and to engage in a broader industry consultation.
Locating Market Data About Building Operators
BOMA Calgary estimates that there are 40,000 ‘professional’ building operators’ said Grant Trump, CEO of ECO Canada who was attending BOMEX. This number however could be as low as 10,000 or it could be considerably higher. Labour market data about building operators simply isn’t available.
The scoping study found that a variety of job titles, responsibilities, building types and regional attitudes toward the position meant that there isn't meaningful information about property operators. Locating verifiable data about the labour market for building operators is a goal of the new task force.
Documenting the Competencies of a Building Operator
There is no nationally accepted set of qualification standards for building operator is another key finding of the research.
Defining the competencies of an individual who would become a building operator is one of the critical tasks following from the Scoping Study according to Grant Trump. ECO Canada, with guidance from the stakeholder group, is preparing a set of competencies that will be circulated to the rest of the industry for verification and comment.
A documentation of the competencies will facilitate further discussion with educational institutions and building owners and managers about appropriate education, training requirements, a certification process and whether an apprenticeship program is a reasonable.
It will take up to a year and half to document the competencies for a building operator and then another year to get to the stage of developing a certification program explained Grant Trump.
About Eco Canada
ECO Canada is a not-for-profit organization that is focused on supporting Canada’s environment industry by communicating with industry stakeholders, conducting research and creating the necessary resources required to address human resource needs in order to ensure the success of this dynamic sector.
The only ISO and globally recognized certificate for GHG verifiers & quantifiers is offered by ECO Canada as well as a program to designate Environmental Professionals (EP). The organization is qualified to provide academic institution accreditation and claims to host Canada’s largest environmental job board on its website.
It is noteworthy that ECO Canada – an organization concerned about the Environment – is involved with the building operator study as it is latent acknowledgment of the important role buildings can play in mitigating the impact of climate change by reducing their environmental foot print.