Commercial Real Estate

Property maintenance tech program: FTCC partners with W.S Wellons Realty, Inc. and Greater Fayetteville Apartment Association for new program

By Jenna Shackelford, posted 4 months ago
Photo BY NATASHA BROWN/FTCC

Back in 2017, Gregory Moore, the director of customized and industry training at Fayetteville Technical Community College, said a dean at the school received news that the region needed property maintenance technicians.

In an effort to fill employment gaps, the idea for a property maintenance tech program was born. “We started calling it the apartment maintenance tech program,” Moore said. “And then we realized it’s a lot more than just apartments, so we opened up the name to say property maintenance.” 

Moore reached out to the National Apartment Association which connected him with the Greater Fayetteville Apartment Association so they could identify which needs could be met through a program at FTCC.

 “They came over and visited the campus several times and we started trying to sculpt what would be beneficial to them and what would keep a person on the continuing ed side. We try to be fairly nimble,” Moore said. 

“We don’t want to hold somebody up for a year if we want them to be able to come and get skills and then move on, so we were asking for their input and then also with Wellons, with Mr. [Billy] Wellons being part of our board, we were mentioning to him that we were working on that so he put us in contact with Jeremy. Then we started including Jeremy and some other folks from Wellons in developing what the scope of the class should be and what we should cover,” Moore said. 

“We worked with FTCC and other members of the community to discuss the need for formal training in the apartment/housing maintenance sector,” Manager of W.S. Wellons Realty Rental division Jeremy Seeland said. “We collaborated over what we thought would be best for the student once they completed their training and how they would be able to be most effective in their career.” 

 Seeland oversees operations, control, and physical property oversight of real estate rental properties  with the company.

“And then everybody knows about 2020, so everything skidded to a stop,” Moore said. 

The first class began in October of 2021. 

“This program provides basic understanding of many different aspects that a maintenance technician will encounter and by having these skills and knowledge, they will be able to help both tenants and businesses excel at providing customer service.  It gives each graduate confidence in being able to repair common issues as well as continue to learn and build upon the basics,” Seeland said. 

“It’s fairly short. It’s 280 hours, so it’s around 7 weeks of class time. It’s 8-5 during the day,” Moore said. “They do 40 hours of electrical, 40 hours of carpentry, 40 hours of plumbing, 40 hours of HVAC, and included in that is two days of appliance repair, there’s CPO certification, which is certified pool operator. Both Wellons Realty and the GFAA wanted them to include the CPO certification, so we actually went next door to the YMCA. They have a pool right beside our building at Fayetteville Tech. We did the pool portion there.”

There’s also another certificate called the EPA refrigerant recovery which certifies the students to handle changing out the refrigerants for a cooling unit. They also got a OSHA ten-hour card. “We tried to start with safety and instill safety into every part of the conversation,” Moore said. “So they get those three certifications.” 

The program started with nine students and ended with five, with one female and four male students. Moore hopes that more female students will continue to pursue the program, although he recognizes that maintenance tends to be male-dominated. “It’s been great to see everybody have a chance at that because it sounds like there’s a big need, not just in Fayetteville, but across North Carolina and also all across the U.S.,” Moore said. 

“We want to be able to get them through the class and then have them ready to go into different careers. There was one person from the GFAA who visited the class and I liked her advice. She just kind of cautioned them. She said, ‘As you go into interviews, make sure you don’t go in with too much confidence.’ Forty hours, one week of electrical, does not make you a professional electrician. It teaches you the basics,” Moore said. “But she said to be honest with them about what you’re strong in and what you’re struggling in. Because we need these people to come out and then be mentored in the particular field… They may still need someone to walk along with them but they can improve and they’ll come to class for two months and have a good attitude and be willing to learn. 

The program is an open-enrollment class, and with the community college system, the maximum price that can be charged is $180 dollars per person. There is an $8 fee for the OSHA card that is charged on top of the program. “I think it’s a very good value for the students,” Moore  said. 

If someone is struggling to come up with that money, though, Moore said they have a variety of resources to tap into to try to help the student, like scholarships and funds from the school. 

The next class will be offered in April. Moore said hands-on activities are important in the program, so the class sizes will likely stay at a maximum of 12. 

The program is an open-enrollment class, and with the community college system, the maximum price that can be charged is $180 dollars per person. There is an $8 fee for the OSHA card that is charged on top of the program. “I think it’s a very good value for the students,” he said. 

If someone is struggling to come up with that money, though, Moore said they have a variety of resources to tap into to try to help the student, like scholarships and funds from the school. 

“There seems to be within industry what we’re calling a silver tsunami,” Moore said. “There are a lot of older folks and we really need some other folks to come in behind this wave of retirees to come in and fill those positions. I think it’s important to your customers and to that industry … But one of the officers with the GFAA encouraged the class by saying, ‘You’re probably one of the most important people the customers could ever meet.’ They could be happy with the location and happy with the amenities, but if you are frustrated that every time you come in an appliance still isn’t repaired, or you’ve got a hole in your wall that they said would be repaired and the resident feels like they aren’t feeling listened to or are just being pushed to the side, that maintenance, or lack of maintenance, can really have a big effect on whether that person wants to stay from a retention standpoint. You want your renters to stay. That maintenance and the follow-through is a really important part for the business owners.”

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