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2024 State of Facilities Webinar Highlights: Space, Spending and Staff

April 26, 2024

Gordian’s signature report on the State of Facilities in Higher Education entered its second decade this year. The 11th edition of the report was published in March 2024. This edition provides the key facilities insights of a typical report from our database of 43,000 campus buildings, 1.1 billion gross square feet of space and more than $13.5 billion in operation budget.

However, this year’s report also contained something new: a deep dive into the widespread staffing challenges experienced by campus facilities leaders nationwide. The report was followed up by a robust webinar discussion with Pete Zuraw, Vice President of Market Strategy and Development, and Duncan Ketel, Account Manager for Planning Services.

What did the webinar discussion reveal? First, a bit of good news: 39% of webinar attendees said that they feel better about the state of their facilities today compared to two years ago, and 34% feel about the same as two years ago. This optimism from campus leaders is encouraging and is borne out in the data, which indicates that the gap between space growth and campus enrollment is leveling out on a macro level, as the campus space expansion that was so prevalent a decade ago has decelerated.

On the other hand, concerns about future enrollment persist, with 79% of webinar attendees indicating that their campus will experience challenges in the future due to the impending enrollment cliff. Given the direct correlation between enrollment and funding and the continuing challenge of increased inflation, it is likely that the shortfall between actual capital spending and target capital investment will persist into the future.

This confluence of factors has also led to strain on maintenance staff, with individual employees becoming responsible for more space. Although there has been a gradual increase in this trend, the coverage area per employee has risen sharply since 2020. This has understandably impacted service level quality. 44% of webinar respondents indicated that the service level quality on their campus is a little or much worse than two years ago.

A significant discussion of staffing challenges followed the data analysis. Over 57% of audience respondents indicated that they are currently experiencing a combination of an aging talent pool, an employee retention gap and employees who lack training in soft skills. The aging talent pool was the most cited issue, which is revealed in employment data. According to Nick Jones at Classet, “The average age of someone working in skilled trade careers today is around 55, [compared with] the average age of all working Americans, which is 44.”

2024 State of Facilities Webinar Highlights: Space, Spending and Staff 1

Despite these challenges, colleges and universities can find a way forward. Our speakers discussed several real-life examples from facilities leaders who have employed innovative solutions to their staffing challenges. Even though the wage gap between higher education jobs and industry persists, leaders can get creative about attracting and keeping workers. Duncan Ketel pointed to the strong culture that exists on many college campuses: “Yes, wages will always be an issue, but if you can create a culture, one where people and employees feel valued, they may be more liable to return, or rather not leave for a private sector job.”

Want to get the full scoop from this year’s expert discussion? Watch the webinar on-demand now.

About Gordian

Gordian is the leading provider of Building Intelligence™ Solutions, delivering unrivaled insights, robust technology and expert services to fuel customers’ success through all phases of the building lifecycle. Gordian created Job Order Contracting (JOC) and the industry-standard RSMeans Data. We empower organizations to optimize capital investments, improve project performance and minimize long-term operating expenses.

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