As a Silicon Valley Chapter representative, and a relatively new AFE member, I attended the Facilities America conference last month in Las Vegas. As I reflect on the adventure, I am struck by the value of networking opportunities provided by AFE membership. I also learned about the looming possibility of a maintenance crisis.
I attended the national board meeting, the chapter leaders meeting, 5 classes, the awards event, and the trade show. During this time I met many AFE members I hadn’t previously known.
One such person was Dan Bittel, CPE who led an inspirational discussion at the Chapter Leaders Meeting. Dan is also Chairman of the National Board of Directors. I was struck by Dan’s passion for brainstorming new ways to support AFE members and the next generation of facilities professionals. One morning, I was delighted to find him sitting at the restaurant counter with a vacant seat next to him. We recognized each other from the meeting and he invited me to join him for breakfast.
We discovered that we had both lived in Silicon Valley in the 70s and had mutual clients and associates during that time. I really enjoyed getting to know Dan. The conversation soon turned to brainstorming on how the AFE can better serve and retain existing members, and grow the organization.
Membership in the AFE has declined over the past decade. We discussed possible reasons for this trend: manufacturing jobs moving overseas, the availability of information from the Internet, challenges of attracting young people to our industry, etc.
Take the Internet for example. Some of the technical information people used to get from associations such as the AFE is now readily available on the Internet. What is not so available on the Internet, however, are the face-to-face networking opportunities provided by AFE meetings, tours, and conferences. Can we be more effective in making our Chapter events more network friendly for new and existing members? Should we be promoting the benefits of networking more to our prospective new members?
We also explored the possibility that the AFE could better use on-line technology to enhance its value to members. We discussed the possibility of using social media, on-line databases, networking with other organizations, and video technologies to better serve our members. We wondered how we could think out-of-the-box and better adapt to meeting the needs of facilities professionals during these rapidly changing times. We just scratched the surface, and would love to hear your ideas!
Perhaps one way is for the older generation to better understand and use the virtual communication technologies that the newer generations are embracing. We could learn more about social media from them. They could learn more about the benefits of face-to-face networking from us.
Preventing a Maintenance Crisis
The next generation will inherit the responsibilities for maintaining America’s infrastructure. According to Joel Leonard, Executive Producer of SkillTV.net, “…we are in the midst of a Major Maintenance Crisis- caused by the millions of retiring skilled maintenance technicians and maintenance professionals, lack of interest by future generations and while companies install increasingly complex new equipment with no or minimal budget allocated for additional training, old equipment continues to age and requires more maintenance. A perfect maintenance storm is brewing…”
Joel gave an informative and entertaining presentation at the conference to a large audience. When he asked the audience if anyone believed that we are not headed for a maintenance crisis, no one raised their hand. This helped me realize that the AFE could play a pivotal role in the future history of our county’s infrastructure. One way is for the retiring generation to pass on the lessons they learned to the new generation.
At the AFE Chapter Leaders meeting at Facilities America I noticed many facilities professionals near retirement age who were eager to pass their wisdom on to the next generation. Few people from the next generation were present at the meeting. The people I met were passionate about their careers and eager to inspire the next generation to have great careers creating and maintaining America’s infrastructure. One way is to participate in the upcoming Day with a Facilities Professional program and demonstrate the enthusiasm we feel for our profession. Perhaps this kind of inter-generational networking could help reduce or prevent the impact of a maintenance crisis.
I am glad that I attended the Facilities America Expo. All the programs I attended were of high quality. I have new friends in my network of professionals. I realize how different it would be if I hadn’t met Dan Bittel and other AFE members face-to-face!
There’s something special about sharing a meal and discussing topics of mutual interest face-to-face that cannot be duplicated by telephone and email contact. Perhaps it’s what we call chemistry, intuition, or having a gut feeling about who we trust and who want to have for friends and business associates. For me, this kind of face-to-face networking is biggest benefit I receive from being an AFE member.
Speaking of networking, I look forward to connecting with you at our Holiday Party in December!
Michael Bukay is the New Media Chair of the AFE Chapter 39 and specializes in producing industrial training videos.
Inage Source: Istockphoto