The top concerns for higher ed Facilities leaders in 2023

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The top concerns for higher ed facilities leaders in 2023

5 key findings from EAB’s survey of Facilities and Estates organizations

The last year has brought significant changes to higher education, as leaders have navigated disrupted labor markets, new expectations of students and their families, and uncertainty on both political and economic fronts. These changes have the potential to impact campus footprints and operations significantly.

EAB surveyed Facilities and Estates organizations across North America, Europe, and Oceania during December 2022 to better understand their impact and opportunities. Here are five of the key findings we identified.

Talent management remains the top concern for higher ed Facilities leaders...

As was the case in 2021, improving talent management ranked number one as the top priority for senior Facilities officers in 2022. Leaders reported that during the final three months of 2022, they averaged a 9% vacancy rate for janitorial/cleaning positions and a 12% vacancy rate for skilled trades positions: HVAC technicians and electricians being the hardest specific roles to fill.

Participants in EAB’s State of Facilities virtual workshops agreed; improving recruitment and retention of skilled trades and enhancing engagement and culture across the organization were the top two specific talent priorities reported for the coming year.

Talent strategies Facilities and Estates shops use

% of responding institutions affirming they have the initiative in place

  • An on-campus apprenticeship program for one or multiple shops

    0%
  • A formal partnership with an off-campus apprenticeship program

    0%
  • An informal, non-apprenticeship upskilling program

    0%
  • A pre-apprenticeship program

    0%
  • A dedicated, Facilities-specific manager development program

    0%

…But financial pressures are growing rapidly

With an ever-looming economic recession, significant inflation, and continued supply chain disruptions, many leaders expressed concerns about the financial forecasts for their institutions. 45% of participants reported declining enrollments as a top concern for their institution across the board, with many concerned the financial pressures might further stymie recruitment and retention efforts for staff on campus.

Even though the average $38 million operating budget for Facilities in 2022 is relatively small compared to the vast array of responsibilities falling on the organization, about 39% of participants expressed a high concern about coming budgetary cuts. Another 25% are most focused on reducing costs and improving the efficiency of their teams.

0%

of survey participants are highly concerned about budgetary cuts

Public commitments to carbon net zero are becoming more common—and the targets are ambitious

More than 65% of all survey participants reported their institution had made a commitment to achieve carbon net zero by a certain date, and almost all those commitments have been publicly announced. While 2050 remains the most common target for all three scopes of carbon emissions, a growing number of universities have selected dates between 2030 and 2045 for their initial targets, especially for scopes one and two of emissions.

However, leaders may not have the means to achieve these ambitious green goals. 32% of survey participants indicated that their greatest barrier to success is the lack of funding to meet their targets, and another 25% cited the lack of interest by senior stakeholders on campus as the biggest obstacle to execution.

Deferred maintenance and space utilization remain a pressing concern on many campuses

EAB spent much of 2022 focused on the design of campus space in the post-pandemic world. Universities primarily targeted offices and classrooms originally, but 2023 has seen priorities evolve: 43% of survey participants indicated their greatest construction and renewal focus in 2023 will be research labs, while another 23% said they will prioritize student-centric spaces such as dining facilities and residential halls.

But not all focus is on the brand new: instead, many leaders expressed concerns about deferred maintenance planning in light of significant declines in capital investments. Others noted that space underutilization continues to haunt their campuses, especially for the 61% that lack a budget model that charges for campus space.

Satisfaction in computerized maintenance management systems has plummeted

EAB has been tracking CMMS vendor adoption and satisfaction since 2017. The main three vendors—AiM Asset Works, Archibus, and WebTMA—remain in a near statistical tie, with School Dude closely following.

Percentage of institutions using various CMMS platforms

  • AiM Asset Works

    0%
  • Archibus

    0%
  • IBM Maximo

    0%
  • School Dude

    0%
  • WebTMA

    0%
  • Other

    0%

However, compared to near-universal satisfaction with CMMS systems in 2021, leaders reported their lowest level of positive experience with their systems since EAB began tracking this data: only 36% of institutions reported being satisfied with their CMMS product.

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