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Lessons for the future

Bernard Crouch of IWFM Risings on helping young people into (FM & Workplace) employment

When COVID-19 struck, students lost the opportunity of real work experience or face-to-face encounters with potential future employers. This put them at a disadvantage when attempting to enter the workplace.


A further issue for the FM and Workplace industry is the image that it has to the outside world and the fact that most people would not be aware of the many opportunities that our industry can offer. Enabling IWFM members and service providers to be able to speak directly to young students who are about to choose which career to work in, provides an opportunity to explain what we do, what can be done, the career paths that can be taken and that FM is not just about ‘Bogs and Boilers’ and that there are a myriad of different roles involved in managing buildings, including cleaning, catering, security, engineering, reception, grounds and many more.


The IWFM Rising FMs SIG (Special Interest Group) Chair Michelle Brightly became aware that this was a not insignificant problem. As a result, she decided that maybe she could organise online sessions with these students to not only help them with forthcoming job interviews and C.V. writing, but also to inform them about the wealth of opportunities that the FM and Workplace industry can offer.


Brightly approached Higham’s Park School in Essex and proposed online interviews to help the students. The next challenge was to assemble a team of volunteers. Over 50 volunteers came forward including IWFM members and significantly, service provider employees who also joined in – which enabled this team to carry out over 240 interviews. The interviews were a challenge for some of the students, who were out of their comfort zone having an online interview with an adult they had never met before. However, patience paid off and the interviews took place. It is hard to estimate the benefit to those students of having the opportunity to speak to an experienced adult and discuss how they might prepare for a live job interview or what they should (and shouldn’t) put in their C.V.


An immediate benefit from the interviews was some students being offered work placements, this included Smart Managed Solutions and Zurich, both of whom not only assisted students with work placements, but also may be able to subsequently offer apprenticeships to some of these students.


David Dunsmuir of Smart Managed Solutions has commented that helping young and disadvantaged people into the FM & Workplace industry is an integral part of their business. Five per cent of their workforce are apprentices, they also employ some ex- young offenders and having traditionally had more male than female employees they are now steadily increasing the number of females that they employ.


Another benefit derived from these interviews with the students is mentoring. One of the students is now being mentored by Lousia Clarke of Churchill Services who spent 10 years in the Royal Air Force as a movement’s controller, and is now supporting this student whose ambitions is to join the military. Once again, this type of help is invaluable for a young person taking their first steps into the workplace.

Going forward the IWFM Risings team would like to roll this out to more schools across the country, working with IWFM members and service providers to offer tangible assistance to young people about to take that big step from education into a career.


Meanwhile because of these interviews Michelle Brightly has been made a voluntary Strategic Advisor (employment) at Higham’s Park School. In an unexpected turn the Higham Park students some of them perhaps emboldened by the interviews, started to talk to other students about issues at the school, leading to them requesting as a group that tampon machines be installed in the Girls toilets. An issue that had been longstanding and caused the teenagers significant embarrassment. They have begun thinking about improving their facilities and environment.


So, this is a call to action. We need volunteers to carry out online interviews with students and of course we also need to get in contact with some schools that would be interested in this and would be happy to help arrange these online interviews.

There are also lessons that we have learnt from the interviews. We learnt from what happened when things went wrong, with the technology or with a neurodiverse student who might struggle with an online interview. The lessons learnt will be used to assist volunteers and sSchools that participate in the 2023 interviews.

If you would like to volunteer either as an online interviewer or to connect us with a school that would be interested in participating, then please email risingfm@iwfm.org.uk to offer your assistance or find out further information.

About Sarah OBeirne

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