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All well and good, but what is it you will actually learn during these apprenticeships? Wyton provided the course outline for the FM Higher Apprenticeship at Sheffield Hallam: “The Foundation Degree in Facilities Management (FdA in FM) is a long established education programme for the development of facilities managers from across the UK. The qualification meets the requirements of the Higher Apprenticeship Framework for Facilities Management and so attracts the funding for eligible employees.

“The qualification was developed with support from BIFM, employers and past students, to represent the needs of the industry and leads to the qualification of FdA in FM, as well as the BIFM Level 4 and 5 diplomas and is recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).”

Sheffield Hallam recognise that there is an increasing demand across the industry for facilities managers who possess academic qualifications alongside practical experience of the industry. The university has sought to set up their qualification as “an established route for FM companies and organisations to be part of the push to address skills shortages across FM as well as the retirement ‘time bomb’ and the need to support the development of future managers.”

This is something that Hausmanis agrees with, saying that though people across the sector keep talking about the skills shortage, “we should be seeing greater corporate engagement to enrol individuals onto these programmes in order to address the skills shortage.” There needs to be a change in the “short termism” attitude which prevails in the industry which is counter intuitive to the development of a skilled workforce.

What both sides agree on though is that the size of the FM workforce is set to grow in the coming years. Indeed in 2015 BIFM’s Facilities Management Business Confidence Monitor reported that almost two thirds (65 per cent) of professionals from the FM sector state they are planning to increase their workforce in the future. Certainly it benefits all concerned to have this workforce be trained academically as well as practically and to develop FM as a career of choice.

Sheffield Hallam’s course lasts between two and a half and three years and learners are evaluated by completing a variety of assessments to test many attributes relevant for successful management performance in the workplace. Assessment types can include management and technical reports, research investigations into practice, problem solving activities, presentations, self, peer and co-assessment and in-company projects. There are no exams for the FdA in FM.

The programme adopts a blended learning approach with modules delivered through a combination of online learning activities, two or three days focused workshops and work-based assignments, all supported by a teaching team both qualified and experienced in the industry and a range of academic and other resources.

So far we have heard lots about the benefits of apprenticeships to the apprentices themselves, but what about their employers? Why should they support their staff in taking part in the process? “The programme produces qualified, professional FMs,” explains Wyton.

“Whilst with us apprentices are able to learn about principles, techniques and their practical use, which is then further developed in the workplace. Putting theory into practice develops confidence and professional competence.

“It means that employers are able to attract and retain the best young talent, supporting the youth employment agenda. They can also generate a return on investment through accelerated development and increased commitment. It is a useful way of ensuring that sponsored employees gain the necessary knowledge and skills to become fully qualified and professionally accredited.

“Sheffield Hallam University’s Business School has a strong history of collaboration with employers to deliver work-focused education and training and is now ready to help them capitalise on Higher Apprenticeships.

“The FdA in FM at Sheffield Hallam University fosters the skills, creativity and loyalty employers need for employees to commit themselves to an organisation and drive it onto the next level.”

The FdA in FM is an innovative work-based learning solution that is designed to meet the needs of the employer and the learner, putting them at the heart of the programme. Typically it consists of building blocks of learning comprised of the essential components of management and facilities practice required to be successful in a complex and dynamic modern workplace. Alongside core topic areas, the programme allows for completion of major in-company projects designed to deliver return on investment for the employing organisation. An illustrative example of the programme is shown below:

(18 Months)

  • skills development
  • the organisation and FM
  • managing services and resources
  • managing premises and the work environment
  • managing people
  • managing projects

(a further 14 months)

  • change management
  • finance management
  • information management and communications
  • risk management
  • the business environment
  • work based project

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