Over the last few years in Canada there has been a surge in Asset Management awareness and understanding amongst local governments and public infrastructure owners. This increase in understanding is great for the industry and the future of infrastructure management in Canada. People are realizing the importance of holistic and forward-looking management approaches. It is also great for the industry as the increased awareness has caused a surge in demand for Asset Management staff.
However, the positive recognition for the field of asset management has created a problem for the industry... Organizations are able to leverage this new awareness and see the financial benefits to justify hiring dedicated resources, such as an Asset Management Manager or Asset Management Coordinator type position. But getting the position open is only the first challenge. Experienced asset management professionals are now in very high demand, and incredibly hard to find.
In the United States, the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is out and creating a significant focus on infrastructure spending, with improving asset management practice providing a real opportunity to make sure that funding goes to the right projects. It is great that there are conversations being had about the importance of Asset Management, the underlying issues it can solve, and what we can do moving forward. But how do we resource that? How do we make sure there is enough Asset Management people to help organizations go down this road of making better decisions using information they already have? A lot of public infrastructure owners are already stretched thin.
In the infrastructure bill there is a whole section on state human capital plans. There has been a lot of discussion around making sure there are enough engineers and construction staff to get capital projects delivered. But how do we make sure the organizations are equipping themselves with the proper AM knowledge to make sure this new funding is going to the right places?
What can we do to get more Asset Managers?
This resourcing issue is affecting more than just public infrastructure owners or local governments. Consultants, software companies and other service providers in this space are also struggling to hire. And private infrastructure owners with bigger balance sheets also have their elbows out looking to hire these skills. There is a limited pool of experienced asset management candidates, and all of these organizations are competing to hire someone within that pool. You may have experienced this resourcing strain within your own organization already.
With this resourcing struggle, organizations are starting to realize that hiring an asset management manager with 10 years of experience is simply not feasible. We need to start building AM capacity ourselves. What do we need to do as an organization to equip ourselves for these staffing challenges? How do we position ourselves for long term success and ensure we will have the right skills in the future?
The content from today’s blog post was discussed during the Asset Leadership Network’s roundtable on how asset leadership can influence infrastructure spending. icInfrastructure’s own Iain Cranston was featured as a panelist on the roundtable. You can watch his opening statement below, or watch the whole discussion here.
Building Organizational Awareness
Building a basic knowledge in asset management for all new employees is a good start to building overall organizational awareness. There are many learning resources for organizations and municipalities. For new employees there is self-guided learning like the Canadian Network of Asset Managers’ New to AM web portal which icInfrastructure helped develop. It is based off CNAM"s renowned AM101 Booklet. There is also our pre-recorded webinars, off-the-shelf policy course, or custom training courses for your organization.
Building Asset Management Competency
If your organization and employees are already well-versed in the basics of asset management, then a competency framework may be your next step. The Canadian Network of Asset Managers has an asset management competency framework web portal that is free to access. This web portal is a great place to start the process of building an AM competency framework in your organization. Building off the AM Competency Framework document produced in 2020, and led by icInfrastructure, the web portal discusses the different levels of AM competency required for different positions in your organization. It also features guides and templates for recruiting and selection, and a competency development tool to help guide personal progress.
Building Industry Awareness
A good example of tackling the AM staff resourcing issue at a larger scale is in the State of Michigan. The Michigan Infrastructure Council has put together a hands-on, 3-month Champion training program. The intent of the program is to get people in infrastructure-owning positions to become asset management champions. The program allows the Champions to access self-guided online courses, peer-learning discussion forums, and learning pods with an AM industry expert. With the knowledge the Champions gained, they have helped to sow the seeds of AM culture not only in their organizations but also across the state. Learn more about the MIC AM Champion program here.