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You’re hired

The profile of apprenticeships has increased greatly over the last four years for both facilities management and for the generation preparing to join the workforce. This comes at a time when FM – and business in general – is confronted by impending skills shortages

The government has responded by channelling resources into more opportunities to improve youth employability, whilst the need for continued support of initiatives has achieved broad political consensus. Indeed, in January 2015, David Cameron pledged to fund three million more apprenticeships should the Conservatives win the 2015 election; it will be interesting to see what additional manifesto pledges arise as polling day nears.

FM is also rising to the challenge by creating campaigns to attract and train the young – and has led the charge in many respects. Several FM organisations are developing strategies to start the student engagement process earlier to encourage an interest in our sector, and to change the profile of FM from a ‘Hidden Industry’ to one with dozens of career paths.

Here we explore some of the strategies – and challenges- in making FM a career of choice, rather than chance:

Apprenticeships are regaining popularity as a means to bring the young into the business environment. Training is usually delivered in the workplace, with an element of ‘off the job’ training with a training provider or at a college. The initial steps by the various stakeholders are yielding positive results.

In 2012, the government invested £1 billion into the Youth Contract –a scheme to provide half a million new opportunities for 18-24 year olds including apprenticeships and work experience placements. A year later several FM organisations – led by Richard Sykes, CEO of ISS Facility Services UK & Ireland – came together at the ‘FM Big Conversation’ in a pledge to support thousands of apprentices and Work Inspiration placements.

By December 2014, the government announced that two million apprentices had been placed over the last four years.

Whilst positive progress is apparent, there is widespread recognition that UK youth still needs support to enter employment. One of the real challenges however, lies in attracting and retaining the ‘Millennial’ generation which possesses different attitudes to work when compared with their predecessors.

Harvard Professor John A. Davies, commented: “This generation is noted in their expectation of rapid advancement in organisations… When they aren’t learning or advanced quickly enough, Millennials often leave their company and move to another organisation.”

According to The Building Futures Group, an estimated six million job vacancies are expected to emerge across the UK in the next 10 years due to skills shortages. Therefore, getting students involved and interested is the first step.

apprentice-Daniel-Carney-067The British Institute of FM collaborated with youth employment organisation Plotr to create an interactive site to display the areas in which FM is involved. FM employers are also working more closely with schools to provide ‘Work Inspiration’ information sessions for pupils.

Steve Workman, corporate responsibility director, ISS Facility Services commented, “All organisations have to do their part in making sure we have a future pipeline of young people who will be future leaders in our organisations. What better place to start than with 16-24 year olds preparing to decide what they want for their futures.”

One of the key challenges to tackle is to raise our profile which, with over two million employees and accounting for around nine per cent of UK GDP, simply isn’t commensurate with its contribution to the economy. Similarly, on a day-to-day level, anyone working in FM will be familiar with the awkward pause before answering the “so who do you work for?” question!

Acknowledging this image problem, The Building Futures Group started the ‘Secret Jobs’ campaign to try to raise the profile of FM and the range of career opportunities on offer. All paths from catering to engineering are available whilst providing varied careers options within a single organisation.

Commenting on the launch of the Secret Jobs initiative, Sarah Bentley, CEO of The Building Futures Group, explained: “The Building Futures Group is passionate about raising awareness of the fruitful career opportunities available in our sector and we are dedicated to reducing the number of people not in employment.”

About Sarah OBeirne


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