We often hear that FM is a career that people just fall into. Yet Universities are now offering courses in it, foreign students are regular visitors to key sites in Britain and the wider public perception is increasing all the time. With all this in mind, is it realistic to think that soon facilities manager might actually become a career of choice for the youth of Britain? What more needs to be done?
The Oxford Dictionary defines facilities as “a place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose.” The general public, not surprisingly, therefore have differing views on what Facilities Management means. This difference is mirrored by Heads of FM in industry having responsibilities that vary depending on where you work. As an example, I am responsible at KPMG for Property (acquisition/disposal and fit outs), Workplace Services (receptions events management, switchboard, maintenance, catering/hospitality, cleaning, mailrooms etc.) and Business Continuity, Safety and Security whereas senior colleagues at other firms may only be responsible for what I call Workplace Services.
This breadth means FM has traditionally had a multitude of entry routes with individuals potentially starting their careers as engineers, space planners, caterers, events managers and cleaners or in architecture, finance, procurement and then falling into FM.
Industry bodies raising the public profile of FM especially on social media will increase interest in FM in its entirety rather than just the individual disciplines which make up FM.
UK Service providers are internationally seen as the experts so FM is one industry where there are enormous worldwide opportunities for talented individuals but do the public know this?
The challenge for colleges and universities is to turn interest into a structured and academically stimulating programme which young people will want to study. There have been many debates about how to professionalise FM and I think that by offering courses that lead on to recognised qualifications is key. A properly designed FM degree which teaches general business skills like people management, business planning, financial budgeting, and supplier management will attract.
Whilst parts of FM can be taught the majority of what makes a great facilities manager comes from practical hands-on experience. Academic institutions will need to create the right balance between theory and practice within their course offerings. A blended learning approach will ensure that students are not only academically trained but have real life experiences to prepare them for their careers in the work place. This is something that many University courses don’t really provide.
In terms of attracting young people into FM as a career rather than just a University degree, more work needs to be done in raising the profile of FM. There should be road shows at schools and college campuses. Arguably the industry bodies should take the lead as the British Hospitality Association does for the catering industry. Personally suspect that very few school careers officers have knowledge of the opportunities FM provides which needs to be addressed as a priority. There are some great graduate/apprenticeship programmes run by service providers so there is a strong story to sell.
I am a great supporter of apprenticeships. At KPMG we have had some wonderful successes by working with our service providers to provide apprenticeships within FM.
Overall I believe that FM can readily become a career that young people aspire to. In turn an influx of fresh diverse talent would benefit the industry enormously.
It is time for Facilities Management to become a proud industry and celebrate the careers and opportunities it offers.