The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Hiring in FM – Looking Beyond University Degrees

Hiring in FM – Looking Beyond University Degrees
09 August 2022

Employers that use degrees to screen candidates could be missing out on key talent and exacerbating the skills gap.

The CIPD asked over 2,000 senior decision-makers about how they screen candidates. The majority of those asked (57 per cent) still mainly look for degrees or post-graduate qualifications when recruiting staff.

In response, the CIPD is calling for employers to focus on skills and experience rather than specific qualifications when considering job applicants and to invest in a range of vocational training options to upskill existing staff.

We put this issue to the facilities and workplace management, commercial property, and built environment community.


“There are few industries as impactful as Facilities Management. The problem in FM is more one of recognition. As older professionals age out of the sector, fewer young people are attracted to the sector, or likely don’t even know it exists. Professionals from across FM talk about 'falling into it', and this lack of recognition exacerbates the skills gaps in the sector."

–Paul Connolly

CEO, 300 North


Watch the Video



A Desire for Continued Professional Development is Key


More than half of the people interviewed said that they look for degrees or post-graduate qualifications from jobseekers. The CIPD says this is often just to “sift” large volumes of applications and can disadvantage jobseekers with relevant experience, but not specific qualifications. 

Freelance FM and Safety Consultant Adam Fahn feels that a person’s commitment to learn and gain experience is far more important:

“Facilities management is such a wide-ranging profession we have people enter it from many directions and a high number of good managers in my experience have no degree level qualifications and certainly not a degree level FM qualification.

“Although a degree in a subject such as English or a traditional science can demonstrate certain skills, with no two days ever feeling the same, what would a degree prove over experience and relevant industry qualifications? In my view, very little.



Picture: a photograph of Adam Fahn


“It is the person's commitment to learn and gain experience and thus demonstrating a desire for CPD that is far more important than an abstract degree they did maybe one or even twenty-one years ago.

“I have a degree in maths. It's not directly related to FM and in reality is far less use in my job than the various City and Guilds accredited training courses, NEBOSH General Certificate, and my IWFM qualification completed in the 20 years since graduating.

“We need to look for the right attitude more than the right university education.” 

Despite the continued focus on degrees, a third of employers (33 per cent) agreed that university/HE institute candidates are either “fairly” or “very” poorly prepared for the workplace and school and college leavers even less so.


The Importance of Soft Skills


Robert Blackler, VP of Sales at Infraspeak, believes that as technology further embeds itself in FM, managers and technicians are facing monumental changes tantamount to an industrial revolution:

“In our opinion, the most important thing that managers can do moving forward is ensure that soft skills are honed and democratised. This means ensuring people are aligned on the future; remain adaptable and with a predisposition to learn and finally, a willingness to use this technology. 



Picture: a photograph of Robert Blackler


“From here, human potential, creativity and competitiveness will run their course, meaning the onus is on companies to upskill and reskill new and existing teams to prepare them for the next wave of changes in the Age of Intelligence.”


Challenging the Definition of Success


While our graduates tend to come from university backgrounds, this is a reflection of the RICS requirements to have relevant real estate qualifications and we, as an industry, need to seek to change this ‘need’ for the better, says Angela Hughes, HR Director at Cluttons.

“Recently we promoted our first ever non-fee earner to an equity partner and promoted one of our senior surveyors who has returned from maternity leave to associate despite not currently being chartered. We have trainee surveyors without RICS accredited degrees who we support to sit their APC in time and are promoted in the meantime based on their skills and commitment regardless.

“One of our equity partners joined us without a degree and studied part-time to learn from the College of Estate Management. As a demonstration of no educational barriers, he is now on our exec board and heads up the Management business unit.

“We believe in assessing an individual’s potential and talent and supporting them accordingly. A degree is not a necessity in today’s world, and we hope to broaden our talent pool still further by communicating this effectively through many channels and by working collectively with others to ensure the message cuts through. Property is all about the people, and it’s the uniqueness of each individual that builds a brilliant company.”



Picture: a photograph of Angela Hughes


Worsening the Technical Skills Gap


68 per cent of the employers surveyed by CIPD said that the skills they have the most difficulty finding in jobseekers are overwhelmingly technical skills. Paul Connolly, CEO of FM recruitment company 300 North, believes the lack of recognition in FM is also worsening the skills gap.

“Many roles in the FM sector have not been covered by university degrees until recently, including a BA degree in Facilities Management which is only offered at a few universities in the UK.

“This means that FM companies have been recruiting talent from outside the graduate pool for many years and particularly when it comes to entry-level roles. This also means that many FM companies already have robust training and development programmes in place to funnel new starters into the business and train them up in the roles they choose."



Picture: a photograph of Paul Connolly


“There are few industries as impactful as Facilities Management. The problem in FM is more one of recognition. As older professionals age out of the sector, fewer young people are attracted to the sector, or likely don’t even know it exists. Professionals from across FM talk about 'falling into it', and this lack of recognition exacerbates the skills gaps in the sector."

Picture: a photograph of a group of graduates wearing traditional gowns, throwing their mortarboard caps into the air. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 09 August 2022


Related Articles

Spotlight Interview – Campbell Murdoch | City Facilities Management

Campbell Murdoch is the Managing Director of City FM Ltd, one of the world’s largest privately owned FM companies. City FM works with several high-profile...

 Read Full Article
Incoming CIBSE President Outlines Engineering Industry Challenges

CIBSE President Adrian Catchpole has highlighted the importance of leadership in engineering in his Presidential Address. He also outlined the challenges presented by...

 Read Full Article
National Careers Week – Making FM Appeal to Young People

For National Careers Week, Michelle Connolly from 300 North shares her advice on how FM companies can make the sector more appealing to young people. Michelle...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Julie Jarvis | Phoenix Resourcing Services

Julie Jarvis is the Managing Director of Phoenix Resourcing Services, and has over twenty years of experience in the recruitment industry specialising in building...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Damion Lucas | Executive Network Group

Damion Lucas is an FM recruitment specialist and the Sector Lead of FM, Fire, Security, Data Centres and M&A at Executive Network Group. After training as a...

 Read Full Article
British Cleaning Council Warns of Staff Shortage Crisis Ahead of Winter Flu and COVID Spike

The industry body that represents the cleaning and hygiene sector fears its workers will struggle to keep public spaces free of viruses if staff shortages...

 Read Full Article
Security Firms Must Recruit 62,000 New Officers to Meet Demand

The UK’s private security industry must recruit, train and license more than 62,000 new security officers over the next 12 months to keep up with the growing demand...

 Read Full Article
Development and Technical Engineers in High Demand Across UK

Several engineering professions are experiencing significant shortages in the UK, particularly within the design and development sector. Research from the beginning of...

 Read Full Article
300 North Partners With Uptree to Promote Young Talent in FM

300 North, the FM recruiter, is partnering with Uptree, a careers education and work experience platform championing diversity, inclusion and equality for all. Uptree...

 Read Full Article
Why 2022 Could be the Year of Record Pay Rises

The Governor of the Bank of England recently said that we need to see “a moderation of wage rises” to stop rising inflation. However, employers in the UK...

 Read Full Article