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Path to success

A new upskilling support programme is being offered to front line FM employees to help enhance their learning pathways and broaden their career options

FutureFit is an initiative delivered by charity, East London Business Alliance (ELBA) which aims to help all workers have the motivation, means and opportunity to adapt to and thrive in the digital economy.

It responds to the increased use of technology in the workplace and the changing skills needed by employees (particularly front line) working in the FM sector. Through a programme of professional development workshops, staff are given the chance to increase their awareness of the technological advancements in the sector and develop the skills needed to transition to an FM career of the future.

The East London Business Alliance (ELBA) has been supporting the social and economic regeneration of east London for more than 30 years. A unique alliance of over 100 partners and supporters, ELBA’s mission is to create possibilities to bring about positive change in east London.

Its work with FM member organisations and their clients is to ensure local job seekers are able to access and secure well paid and meaningful employment and that once in work, employees are provided with a range of key skills training to enhance their future employment prospects and opportunities to develop sustainable careers.

The Need
Rapid improvements in technology are driving a fast rate of change in the FM sector and as the use of automation technology continues to become more prevalent and play an increasingly vital role in the way facilities are managed, it undoubtedly brings with it a raft of business benefits. Yet, the impact on jobs and careers and more significantly, the societal impact, can often be overlooked.

As with each Industrial revolution, the 4th brings with it the need for a growth mind set, adaptability, flexibility and the use of new skills to make the transition – to be able to work with new technology or risk being displaced by it.

As a leading local regeneration charity, ELBA has been monitoring and measuring the impact this has on inequality, the make-up of local employer workforces and the job roles required over the next five to 10 years. Roles are already changing and disappearing at a considerable pace.

Nonetheless, despite there being a clear need for employees to receive training and guidance about the pace of change and the associated opportunities, unfortunately very little exist. Potentially vulnerable workers were not being supported at the speed and scale needed to help them adapt to tomorrow’s careers path and it is to this backdrop that the FutureFit pilot was developed.

The Training
The FutureFit pilot is designed to test a new approach to raising awareness of ‘New Skills’ support and evaluate its effectiveness by working with ELBA’s employer network across the FM sector. As cited in the IWFM report: Embracing Technology to Move FM Forward (2016), those working in cleaning, catering, security, grounds maintenance, switchboard and mail services are among the most likely to be put at risk due to automation in the workplace.

As a result, ELBA is working with its most active employers and their front line staff to test ‘what works’ in terms of new skilling. The pilot is creating a new evidence base of good practice and scale-able activity for ELBA and a wider network of partners to take forward, which will clearly articulate the social and business case for employers offering effective support to their employees – evidencing a clearer link between its benefits as workforce development and employee productivity and retention.

Early adopters of the programme include facilities services company ISS who have aligned delivery with a number of their financial services contracts in Canary Wharf.

The key commitment from those involved is to provide their staff with the opportunity to participate in the FutureFit training which consists of 8 x 1 hr sessions during their contracted hours of work, delivered as weekly sessions or more intensively. Workshops are designed to help workers vulnerable to challenges presented by automation to:

  • Understand how advancements in technology will impact the Facilities Management sector and their own jobs
  • Feel excited by the opportunities that new technology offers
  • Understand how roles in the Facilities Management sector will change and what skills will be required
  • Identify their strengths, transferable skills and areas for development
  • Understand and practice skills & know-how required to manipulate, work with and/ or create technologies or data
  • Feel more confident at interacting with technology at work
  • Focus on core skills such as adaptability, communication, literacy, numeracy and problem solving
  • Feel better equipped with key employability skills to move from ‘job’ to ‘career’

Where possible, employers are also encouraged to facilitate opportunities that will enable beneficiaries to:

  • Experience new roles and add to their work history by putting their new skills into practice through internal work shadowing
  • Establish networks so that beneficiaries can empower each other to pursue lifelong learning through mutual support and peer to peer learning

Through FutureFit training, ‘at risk’ workers envision a positive future in which they are exposed to a wider range of sector specific career options, learning pathways, support & resources, and peers who have successfully made the same transition.

About Sarah OBeirne

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