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Reskilling for the FM Sector

Reskilling for the FM Sector
31 December 2020
 

With vacancies opening up across the facilities management sector, what transferable skills are most sought after by FM recruiters?

Michelle Connolly is one of the founding Directors of 300 North, a facilities management recruitment specialist. Connolly joined 300 North in 2015 after a 15-year career in software, working across the insurance and financial services sectors. She has since immersed herself in the FM sector, believing there is a great deal of knowledge that can be transferred and applied from other sectors to both the FM & recruitment markets as they evolve. 

 

"Regeneration projects across the UK are continuing to be planned and unveiled despite the pandemic. FM is one of the few sectors that has been able to continue on throughout the lockdowns."

 

Reskilling the Workforce for the FM Sector

 

FM is already paving the way for UK recovery in the jobs market, with vacancies in workplace relocation, workplace management, security and sustainability opening across the sector. Cleaning alone has seen a 14 per cent increase in job postings. This flexibility in FM and the willingness to train new workers from outside of the sector means that they are set to remain at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery.

In the current market, FM companies can work to employ talented new workers with a diverse range of skills gained from previous employment. Transferrable skills such as strategic planning, project management, leadership and adaptability are all vital in FM, and could be gained in a range of other roles. FM can also be a great starting point for young people coming out of education, and a drive to recruit the best of those would be beneficial to the sector in the short and long term.

CIPD’s Good Work Index states that there is a “substantial body of research [which] shows… that [encouraging] learning, growth and self-determination leads to higher performance and wellbeing” in employees, and leads to higher staff retention rates. Training and upskilling is a vital part of any role and can be used in FM to bring people with relevant skills from outside of the sector into the workforce. This does not just mean training someone into a role so that they can do the job; but giving relevant continuous training to all employees. This has the possibility of massively benefiting diversity in the workplace in terms of skills and experience, fundamental in increasing productivity, creativity and performance outcomes.

The government are also committing to getting people who are currently unemployed back in work with the Kickstart Scheme to target young people with apprenticeships. Equally, the “lifetime skills guarantee” would open up ‘reskilling’ through further education to anyone who has not yet gained A-Level (or equivalent level) qualifications. For those already suffering job losses due to COVID19, reskilling is one way forward. Reskilling builds on a person’s existing career expertise to best prepare them for a new role or career path, enabling them to reskill into FM after long careers in other sectors, as well as moving around within the FM sector.

 

Moving Into FM

 

Research from Totaljobs shows that movement between sectors is currently occurring, with 51 per cent of people changing their career because they would like a new challenge and to gain new skills. This movement of vacancies and workers brings great opportunities for diversity in FM. Sodexo is looking to increase diversity in their workforce this year despite already leading on this issue. This is particularly true in their security team, 20 per cent of whom are female (rather than the usual 9 per cent). They have partnered with Generation Success to create a 14-month mentoring programme which hopes to bring 40 diverse young people into the sector and show them the breadth of roles available. This programme will also benefit the Sodexo employees mentoring the new recruits, as they are enrolled on a coaching apprenticeship. This kind of mutually beneficial programme is great for upskilling a company’s workforce whilst nurturing new talent. It helps to future-proof the company and the workforce.

 

Training and Re-Training in FM

 

Another company with a strong focus on getting more people into the sector is Mitie who have recently published their Social Value Report, part of which covers their goals on employment; one of which is to train people into their workforce. Currently, 2.5 per cent of their workforce are apprentices, gaining critical knowledge and skills in FM practices, and an introduction to FM. “Mitie’s management apprenticeship has been the most successful so far”, which has led them to invest in further training, allowing people with existing skills to be educated to an even higher level. Mitie hopes to double the percentage of apprentices in their workforce by 2025, giving real opportunities to those who are unemployed and have likely been impacted by the pandemic.

Mitie also run the Mitie Foundation, which held a week-long event in 2019 targeted at 16 to 29 year olds potentially looking for work. This advertising of opportunity in FM was compounded by a series of roadshows in February this year which showcased apprentices’ working life. This kind of dedication towards bringing people in by showing potential candidates the ‘realities’ of the role before hire, or letting people get a feel for the company itself, will create more trust and staff retention. This programme recognises the value of hiring apprentices to combat skill gaps in the workforce.

 

Enginners meeting

Picture: A photograph showing a group of engineers working on a problem on a white board

 

FM Jobs for COVID-19 Response

 

FM is seeing a rise in jobs available as part-time work for students, which could be another path into a long-term career in the sector. Reporting from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that “of 4,352,000 UK workers aged 25 and under, 890,000 work in either accommodation and food, or arts, entertainment and recreation”. These sectors have been put under ever-increasing pressure during the pandemic, as many places have been unable to open or re-open due to restrictions. This is a large market to be able to tap into, particularly when lower-paid jobs in these sectors may be gone for some time.

Meanwhile, coronavirus related jobs are steadily on the rise as in-person businesses reopen, and universities are using this opportunity to recruit into FM from the student body. "Safety marshals" are being employed under various names on campuses around the UK and are used to ensure students are following safety guidelines. Part-time work is also being advertised to students for jobs such as contact tracing, warehouse working, and catering, overtaking the usual recruitment drive for sales assistants and bar staff, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. In Norfolk’s James Paget University Hospital, six students have recently been recruited through ‘Project SEARCH’ to become NHS staff, in ward domestic roles such as catering and waste portering.

Outside of higher education recruitment and moving 16-24-year-olds into the sector, domestic and workplace cleaning services are back in demand, with people wanting to hire cleaning staff across the UK. This should help to address the needs of many cleaners within the sector who were put out of work at the start of the pandemic by the lockdown, as the law did not allow people to enter other households, even for work. In addition, the hospitality industry, workplaces, and events spaces closed, not requiring their usual regular cleaning services. Some cleaning businesses have diversified, however, moving from domestic services or window cleaning to sanitisation in order to continue doing business.

Axis are one company who have “[combined] the management of [their] security and cleaning services” in order to simplify communications with the consumer. They have recently been training staff on the ground in the Wulfrun shopping centres as part of the renewal of their contract. As schools, retail spaces and workplaces continue to reopen, we can expect to see cleaners more often, sanitising workstations and setting up daily sanitisation schedules.

The Leeds based Servo Group are also expanding despite the pandemic, hiring five new head office employees and picking up a contract to provide facilities management to GPs Practices across Leeds. They expect to create 100 new jobs for the city which will introduce people into sustainable jobs in FM – one of the reasons Servo picked up the contract was because of their excellent record with environmentally-friendly business practices. Amey is also picking up employees in their new contract with Highways England. They will be managing and maintaining 41 sites for the company through the integration of digital asset management and optimisation.

 

Green Jobs

 

The London School of Economics (LSE) have released a report on how green jobs could boost the UK’s economic recovery following coronavirus. The report sets out 6 key areas for government investment; energy efficiency in buildings; natural capital projects; travel equipment and infrastructure; renewable power generation, distribution and storage; EV creation and charging; and carbon capture. The writers suggest that investment in green infrastructure would help the government to meet the rising unemployment caused by the pandemic. The 6 areas would need many new people to be employed and trained in them, and thus would address short term damage to jobs, whilst also retraining people into FM. They also theorise that this would likely cause stable economic infrastructure for the future, as more countries invest in green policies and systems, with the UK at the forefront of global growth and investment in green jobs and technology.

Leeds based company Engineered Systems Electrical has already picked up on the upward trend of sustainability. In September 2020 they released plans to create new jobs as a result of their external low-voltage distribution unit invention. This innovation has been created to increase the number of electric vehicle charging points in car parks for large organisations, such as garages and supermarkets. It is also made predominantly from locally sourced materials, greatly reducing its carbon footprint. This will result in new jobs for people in the Leeds area, including guaranteed opportunities for apprentices in FM.

 

Regeneration

 

Regeneration projects across the UK are continuing to be planned and unveiled despite the pandemic. FM is one of the few sectors that has been able to continue on throughout the lockdowns. Though work lowered for some time earlier in the year, this relative stability could help to attract new workers to the sector and has supported much of the supply chain. Regeneration will bring employment and training opportunities to the north, and will aid in the pandemic recovery in the places that have been most affected, including Leeds.

The New Briggate regeneration aims to make Leeds’ pre-1919 buildings more compliant with the City Councils’ climate emergency commitments. These refurbishments seek to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings whilst creating a template for how environmentally friendly refurbishments can be replicated in other areas of the city. Another renovation project in the north has transformed the former Pioneer House in Dewsbury’s town centre into a specialist higher education and skills facility for Kirklees College. Pioneer House began 2020 with no utilities or services, and has become a more sustainable state of the art higher education and training facility.

John Lewis is also planning a major refurbishment to its flagship Oxford Street (London) store, converting around half of the building to office space. This could be a way for the company to diversify into letting, as well as to create innovative office space as workforces across the city return to work away from home. The possibilities for state of the art technology solutions here is immense, creating an exciting opportunity for the FM sector. This follows the news of the John Lewis and Engie partnership earlier this year in order to move towards the retail giant’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

 

Giving Back

 

At 300 North we have been continuously recruiting throughout the lockdown in order to supply our clients with the talent they need to continue their essential work. During this time we have noticed that some of our clients have expressed an interest in recruiting across sectors to see a wider pool of candidates. 

For instance, a couple of clients suggested considering senior candidates from the FMGC sector as it’s so fast-paced, and this characteristic translates well to the FM sector. Our clients recognise the potential for their businesses in hiring from other related sectors, particularly at a senior level. It isn’t always possible to recruit from other sectors for particularly specialised roles; but with more funding going into retraining and re-education now could be the time to diversify the candidate pool by encouraging people into the FM sector.

Picture: a photograph of Michelle Connolly

Article written by Michelle Connolly and Emma Thornton | Published 31 December 2020

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