Facility Maintenance

Can Outsourcing Solve Higher Education’s Operational Challenges?

Innovative solutions for a vibrate, efficient, and sustainable campus

Today’s higher education institutions are faced with a myriad of operational complexities in the pursuit of academic excellence. Staffing, student well-being, maintenance, sustainability, and operations management challenges have only been amplified by the pandemic, decreasing enrollments, aging infrastructure, and funding constraints. The operating environment of educational facilities has undoubtably become more stressful.

Amid such challenges, there is good news!

Companies that specialize in the higher education operating environment can offer inventive, at-the-ready solutions. These providers can support virtually every aspect of the educational facility environment — whether it’s supplying skilled personnel, setting up a resilient and efficient operational ecosystem, enhancing campus aesthetics, or improving infrastructure.

The key is finding the right provider that fully understands the multifaceted needs of higher educational environments while offering the vision, innovation, and resources required to maintain a modern, efficient, and attractive campus.

Staff Recruitment and Retention

One of the most pressing issues for higher education institutions is the recruitment and retention of skilled staff. Long hiring processes, fewer applications, low pay, burnout, and limited career growth all add to the problem.

To tackle these issues, outsourcing with a specialized hiring team can offer the flexibility and resources needed to attract qualified candidates, streamline the hiring process, and quickly onboard. This is particularly critical for smaller schools that do not have a dedicated HR team. These types of specialists can also ensure competitive health and welfare benefits, retirement savings options, workers’ compensation coverage, and paid time off to create incentive to stay with the institution.

Retention strategies are also a critical part of the overall approach to staffing. A qualified provider can help determine career development paths with a set and transparent framework, while creating proactive engagement programs, community service, and volunteer opportunities to further bolster retention.  

Higher-Quality Facilities

Facilities continue to be an important consideration in the college selection process — with nearly two thirds of students factoring campus facilities at least somewhat into their college decision. Operating a high-quality campus can help combat declining enrollment. Unfortunately, many campuses lack the resources to develop a strategy to lower costs or plan for future upgrades because they are drowning in a backlog of deferred maintenance, which has surpassed $112 billion nationwide

This is where a qualified facility maintenance provider can help. They have the resources and expertise to take a proactive stance towards infrastructure upkeep and enhancements.

A key to finding the right partner is ensuring that facility services are centralized under a single entity. This single-source accountability creates a system of seamless communication and continuous improvement, provides an environment for swift issue resolution, and establishes a process for more proactive maintenance. An experienced provider can also offer national purchasing power for further cost savings.

Involving custodial and maintenance specialists from the outset of new facility undertakings, such as upgrades or new architectural ventures, can be highly efficient and yield important cost savings that free-up capital for other needs.

A Better Student Experience

Positive mental and physical health are critical for academic success. Light, air, and facility quality have real effects on student success. A recent national study found that 88 percent of students reported that the lack of cleanliness becomes a distraction.

Installing sound insulation panels in walls, sound-reducing windows, high-quality seals, and gaskets on doorways ensures that areas such as libraries, study rooms, and conference rooms are as quiet as possible. Proper lighting is also vital to maintain safety standards and an environment for students and faculty to interact and study in an effective manner. Furthermore, enhanced HVAC systems and proactive maintenance yields improved indoor air quality, which contributes to cognitive performance.

Having experienced experts collaborate with facility managers to install, maintain, and update these types of improvements creates a quiet, clean, and hygienic campus environment — helping students focus, improving mood, and increasing productivity.

A Sustainable Future

The effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent, and recent research shows that incoming students cite it as a factor that influences their choices of schools. Eighty-five percent of college students say it is at least somewhat important for their campus to prioritize sustainability.

Campuses looking to increase sustainability can look toward green cleaning, waste management and recycling, and e-mobility options, along with ways to reduce energy consumption.

A facility management provider with the right experience in green cleaning procedures can ensure cleanliness and the well-being of people and the environment. For example, bio-based cleaning alternatives as well as electrically activated waters systems produce safe, non-toxic daily cleaning and sanitizing solutions onsite. These providers can also develop an effective waste management program or implement recycling and composting.

The facilitation of an accessible and convenient EV charging program and e-mobility on campus is becoming an increasingly important infrastructure requirement. However, an expert is really needed to determine the full impact of e-mobility on campus and provide support in reaching short- and long-term infrastructure needs.

Improvements like efficient HVAC systems, dynamic valves, and better insulation can lead to significant savings on energy bills and positively impact both productivity and engagement.

The right partner can also provide financial solutions to fund infrastructure upgrades by generating capital through energy and operational savings.

Operations Management  

When it comes to managing operations, higher education institutions face a variety of challenges particularly when it comes to maintaining aging facilities. To address these challenges, institutions can implement effective facilities, operations, and management (FOM) programs that prioritize quality, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.

A well-run and sustainable FOM program requires a carefully orchestrated and executed process that includes:

  • Developing an organizational culture and leadership structure aligned with facility goals
  • Fostering trust and support within the campus community
  • Creating core programs and systems such as customized standard operating procedures, preventative maintenance, safety operations and quality assurance
  • Implementing the right technology platforms and reporting to enable data-driven decisions
  • Performing ongoing system assessments

A Winning Partnership

The need for strategic and forward-thinking solutions in today’s educational environments is paramount. The right facility management partner should be able to meet the needs of today’s educational environments while identifying emerging needs and future challenges.

Streamlined and comprehensive facilities, operations, and management (FOM) programs can help efficiently maintain and upgrade campus facilities. By integrating leadership principles, stakeholder engagement, data-driven decision-making, and post-implementation assessments, higher education institutions can foster a robust and engaging learning environment.

Matt Tillson is the Senior Vice President of Education Solutions at ABM. Prior to joining ABM, he held executive positions with Sodexo, Compass Group USA, Steritech, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Tilson owned a Master of Business Administration from the School of Education & Human Sciences at the University of Kansas. For more information, go to: https://www.abm.com/industries/education/.

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