The exponential growth of building apartment complexes across Nebraska results with lack of maintenance workers statewide

OMAHA, Nebraska – If you reside in an apartment complex or multifamily unit and your HVAC or an appliance malfunctions, you will likely contact the facility’s maintenance staff.

However, these workers are difficult to find nowadays.

Rhonda Pederson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Nebraska, states, “The demand is bigger than we’ve ever seen.”

Part of the problem is the increasing number of apartment complexes around the state, although Pederson argues that they are important.

“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.”

These complexes need personnel for their operation.

“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 overcome the labor shortfall, Pederson and Ketchum assisted in establishing 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 curriculum is twelve weeks long and costs a maximum of $4,500.

However, students are able to generate income while studying. Students are in Ketchum’s classroom in the mornings. In the afternoons, they are on-site with maintenance professionals at apartment complexes studying and assisting for pay.

“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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