January 30, 2023
Recreation facility management is a job position that always requires the individual who wants and needs to learn more.
Situations that present themselves will hopefully spark curiosity inside the facility manager to research the topic or issue and work towards a solution. This is a foundation of all ORFA professional certifications. The core information presented in each training course is the end result of past facility staff trying to understand and improve operations from a time long since past. The ORFA has gathered and noted this past experience, and it becomes “industry best practice” to be shared with others in the industry. It is important to clearly understand that the ORFA does not create “industry best practice” – we merely are gatekeepers and sharers of information.
Industry best practice is fluid. The shared experiences are used as starting points that allow the next generation of practitioners to adjust to meet their specific operation or to build on. The ORFA’s role is to collect these investments and warehouse them so that they are properly archived. Over the past 75-years, the OAA (Ontario Arenas Association) and ORFA have tracked a variety of changes and can often trace back to when a change occurred. This allows for a statement as to how long a certain approach has been used in the industry. Most often, this information is being sought in a legal matter as the courts try and determine how an operation should have been conducting business. It is a recognized waypoint that can determine if the facility exceeded what others were doing in the industry, or how far behind they may have been in their approach to safe operations.
Recreation facility management is a complicated environment with many different roles and responsibilities. Today’s facility manager needs a working knowledge of all aspects of their facility and without it, how can it truly be managed. Pending the size of the department and the regulated expectation, the facility manager must determine how best to support responsibilities with staff and who possess specific skills and training. The ORFA Developing an Effective Operational Team Guideline explores what this might look like.
Once this is established, a successful facility manager would have a high level of curiosity about all things related to getting better at their job. Looking at the many different job postings that appear in ORFA's E-News confirms that recreation facility management requires a variety of proven skills. Security, information and technology management, shipping and receiving, vendor and contractor relationships, HVAC/R, plumbing, electrical, health and safety, security and team leadership are all skills that would not have been listed on a job description 30-years ago. Over the years, the ORFA has adjusted certification training courses to explore all of these skills and knowledge requirements. The pandemic forced most facility managers to learn things that months before were not even on their radar. HVAC/R terminology, what exactly they were responsible to control access to, as well as what work can and cannot be performed remotely were lessons learned by many. Building the muscle of curiosity can create opportunity. The benefit of having curiosity is that often this skill is noticed by others.
For the next generation of practitioner who has a desire to move from the frontline, to a supervisory level of position, the opportunity to obtain the necessary recognized training to support their time in the field has never been more within reach. ORFA’s investment in online self-study technology has quickly been embraced by the membership and will continue to drive the future of the association. Again, looking at the E-News job postings confirms that ORFA training and certifications have become industry best practice. What I know can be stated with certainty is that there is no one straight path into or through this profession. But we do know that most who are responsible for the management of recreation facilities all have some similar skill set requirements which are safe, reliable, energy efficient operations. Our industry is one of a very few that are left where a person can start with a secondary diploma and move into a higher-level responsibility. Post-secondary education or industry professional accreditation are starting points to a successful career in our industry. Being able to adapt and communicate well in blue and white collar environments is required as both levels of operation will accept or reject a supervisor based on their skills and knowledge. It is important and acceptable to openly state that “you don’t know everything” and that you are curious enough to want to learn more about the topic, issue, or challenge. And when you do, feel free to pass along your experience to the ORFA as it just may be the start of a new “industry best practice”.
Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Director, Training and Research Development, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association
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