Most human resource experts agree that most people today will tread along at least four different career paths throughout their working lives. Modern day maintenance professionals have many career advancement choices and paths open to them. For some, a change of career will mean moving into a completely non-related industry, for example, opening a restaurant. For most maintenance professionals, however, the lure of being able to troubleshoot, diagnose and repair something is difficult to resist. Fortunately, the maintenance industry, more than most, offers many choices for specialization and advancement in related areas.
Step one to building a new career in maintenance is to take stock of yourself and list your abilities, both general and specific. For example, are you good with computers? Are you good with math and physics? Are you a good communicator? Do you like working with people? Are you a good organizer? Are you better at diagnosing problems than fixing them? Attributes such as these can help you advance into areas you not only are good at, but also enjoy.
Step two is to group, relate and match your skills to the requirements of available advancement opportunities and translate them into a new career path. The chart below demonstrates which skills translate best into the various maintenance careers.
SKILL: Computer skills
TRANSLATION: Maintenance software management, Database trending/reporting/programming, Predictive maintenance
SKILL: Math/physics skills
TRANSLATION: Maintenance engineering, Reliability engineering, Mechanical/electrical engineering, Predictive maintenance
SKILL: Communications/people skills
TRANSLATION: Maintenance management
TRANSLATION: Project or program management/planning, MRO Inventory management, Maintenance management/planning, Maintenance procurement
SKILL: Diagnostic skills
TRANSLATION: Predictive maintenance, Reliability engineering, Multi-skilling
At this stage, you may not have all the skills required for a new career, therefore you need to address knowledge upgrading, skills upgrading, and certification.
Step 3 involves mapping and training for a new maintenance career. Upgrading personal knowledge in the area of computer basics, programming, logistics, critical thinking and communication skills can be a simple matter of attending a local college program on your own time.
Skills upgrading and certification programs will require more commitment — either a full time commitment or time off from your present employment. If you choose a program that your present company perceives to be beneficial, you may be able to solicit help from your human resource department. That department can often assist in putting together a skills advancement and certification program.
Performing your own research into available training and certification programs will help as well. For example, contact your local college for information on how to attain a second maintenance trade certificate; contact the local college or university for information on management programs; contact maintenance vendors regarding predictive maintenance technician certification courses such as vibration analysis, infrared analysis, oil analysis, etc. Industry associations such as the STLE (Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers) and the ICML (International Council for Machinery Lubrication) offer certification training for lubrication specialists. PEMAC (Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada) offers a multi-module Certified Maintenance Manager (CMM) designation training course. You might even be able to perform many diploma and certification courses over the Internet or on a part time basis. The key is choosing what works best for you and your employer.
Career opportunities can present themselves at any time. By taking a positive approach to lifelong learning and knowledge acquisition, you can place yourself in the right position when opportunity knocks