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You’re hired

When people think about apprenticeships the first thing that comes to mind is usually young people, just out of school or college taking their first steps toward learning a trade. Whilst that is often the case there are now plenty of opportunities open to people who have been in work for a number of years and nowhere is that truer than in facilities management. FMJ spoke to Sheffield Hallam University and the BIFM to find out how they are changing the way apprenticeships are viewed

Over the past several years the government has publicly revamped the nation’s apprenticeships programme. The Prime Minister has set a target of reaching three million apprenticeships available by 2020. A large part of this has been the development of trailblazers which are groups of employers who come together to design apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches.

“This changing landscape is providing the platform for BIFM to work alongside employers again to shape the next generation of qualifications and apprenticeships,” says Linda Hausmanis, director of professional development at the British Institute of Facilities Management. “We can understand what skills will be required of FMs of the future to manage the workplaces of the future.

“In 2008 BIFM worked with employers to design and develop the existing BIFM FM qualifications at Level 2, 3, 4 and 5, and these form pathways in the existing apprenticeship frameworks.”

Another organisation striving to make the most of apprenticeships is Sheffield Hallam University. Sheffield Hallam was the first university in the country to offer degrees in FM and is still determined to help develop the industry.

Paul Wyton, subject group leader in facilities management at Sheffield Hallam told FMJ: “Part time education for professionals at university has almost halved since 2010, in 2014 the government made a number of commitments to develop and enhance the standing of apprenticeships and better meet the skills needs for the UK. At the centre of these commitments was the intent to grow the numbers completing higher and degree apprenticeships, and for the first time to support apprenticeships delivered by universities.

“For organisations this means that for the first time a higher apprenticeship completed at a university will gain government funding of up to 50 per cent of the course fees. Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) has become the first university to deliver these new higher level apprenticeships in facilities management. Higher apprenticeships are available to anyone in employment, who has not already completed a degree or received a student loan.

“Anyone can, with their employers support, complete a higher apprenticeship through a university whilst still working, and gain a Foundation Degree (along with BIFM qualifications) with half the fees paid.

“This is a great opportunity for organisations employing FM’s, whether working for suppliers or in-house, public sector, private or third sector, to support personal and organisational development at a low cost.

“The qualification would be delivered on a part time blended basis over two and a half years, combining intensive interactive workshops of two or three days, distance supported online learning, completion of work based assignments and work based learning in agreement with employers to meet the specific needs of the employee. The programme is designed to provide work relevant learning whilst keeping any disruption to work to a minimum.

“At Sheffield Business School we also see a new opportunity, the chance to recruit the brightest school leavers into FM, taking a formal apprenticeship programme that includes employment and a university qualification. Such an opportunity would have to be employer led, and probably require an element of industry co-operation, but would create opportunity to make FM a career of choice.”

Sheffield Hallam’s foundation degree is “mapped to the existing BIFM Levels 4 and 5” explains Hausmanis. “This offers people an opportunity to achieve both an academic qualification as well as recognition that comes from the professional body’s qualification.”

Hausmanis is clearly passionate about changing the perception of apprenticeships in the FM industry. “The term apprenticeships is a misnomer,” she explains. “The term is too often associated with young people just out of school. We need to promote and explain the benefits of apprenticeships to adults, even those already in work. People who want to embark on a programme of learning and gain a recognised academic and professional qualification shouldn’t be put off by the term ‘apprenticeship’. Instead they should seize the opportunity and take advantage of the financial contribution the government is willing to contribute.

“There are all sorts of benefits and opportunities out there and lots of reasons why people might not have been able to take advantage of these; from companies who don’t support them through to having children at home or via a thousand other reasons. But now it is becoming much easier for people at work to still educate themselves.”

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