The apprenticeship opportunity
Facilities management is at a pivotal moment in its relatively short history. Having grown exponentially over the last 30 years, according to the most recent data the sector employs approximately 10 per cent of the UK’s workforce and contributes around seven per cent (£120 billion) to national GDP, with a significant impact on people’s daily lives and on the nation’s economy.
What’s more, the Coronavirus pandemic has foregrounded the role of the facilities manager, with organisations and workers alike looking to our profession to provide safe, healthy, comfortable and productive workplaces at the moment when the very concept of ‘workplace’ is being rethought. Add in the critical sustainability challenges of climate change and decarbonisation to net zero by 2050 (buildings account for nearly 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions) and it’s clear that workplace and facilities management has an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate its value, both to organisations and society in general.
Maximising this opportunity requires a profession with the skills, training, vision and adaptability to help address these mega challenges whilst optimising rapidly evolving technology and acting innovatively. The world of work is evolving fast; the old ways of working won’t do any more.
ADDRESSING THE SKILLS SHORTAGE
Today, FM is experiencing a significant and growing skills shortage at all levels due partly to its own growth, but also to a lack of applicants with the right skills, the after-effects of Brexit (prior to the end of free movement, EU nationals accounted for up to 24 per cent of the workforce across the skills spectrum), and demographic changes (the average age of facilities managers is steadily increasing). Our latest Market Outlook survey published in April this year revealed that only 18 per cent of respondents expected to be able to recruit workers with the skills their organisations need over the coming 12 months.
IWFM has long argued that our profession needs to invest in upskilling and attracting new talent, and that apprenticeships – employer-centred to provide the skills and knowledge industry needs – are an essential part of the solution. The signs are encouraging; our recent Pay and Prospects research found positive evidence among employers on the professional development front, with more offering apprenticeships, mentoring and CPD opportunities. Only one in a 100 offers nothing, compared to 15 per cent in 2019.
On the supply side, the Institute has played a key role in developing four FM Apprenticeship Standards (at levels 2, 3 and 4, and now at level 6), working with stakeholder groups, including major sector employers and education providers. These standards complement the career pathway that IWFM had already developed to support facilities professionals at every stage of their career.
In a significant development, nearly three years after the Level 6 standard was first developed, a new Level 6 ‘Senior/Head of Facilities Management’ Degree Apprenticeship is being offered for the first time from this autumn by Bolton University. Targeted at those in strategic positions within the sector, the programme will enable learners to gain key skills in developing and managing strategy and policy, change and programme management, and operational and technical leadership; as well helping to develop generic behaviours required for professional success, such as collaboration and influencing skills, leadership and a systematic approach.
We want to see a greater uptake of apprenticeships across the board and Bolton’s course is an important and very welcome step in the right direction. This Levy-funded apprenticeship opens up another excellent avenue into senior workplace and facilities management at a pivotal moment for our profession. Employers have been incentivised to take on apprentices with additional Government funding, so I hope we will see more and better apprenticeship provision going forward.
This apprenticeship standard is designed to provide sufficiently transferable skills to enable a successful apprentice to perform a senior facilities management role for an employer of any size and in any relevant sector.
Successful completion of a Level 6 apprenticeship meets the requirements for IWFM’s Certified grade (CIWFM). As we have set our sights on becoming a chartered profession, the more options that exist for workplace and facilities managers to reach the Level 6 standard the better for them and for our profession as a whole.
Level 6 apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional, full-time higher education as a pathway to a successful career. They offer the opportunity to start earning (without the debt of a traditional university degree), while developing occupational skills and gaining workplace experience.
There is already evidence (from the Office for Students) to indicate that degree apprenticeships support social mobility and diversity by attracting more female participation in male-dominated subjects and more learners from low participation and economically disadvantaged areas; something that was not possible before the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced.
By helping to create a more skilled workforce, the Level 6 FM Apprenticeship will improve innovation, productivity and sustainability throughout the sector. It will help the next generation of workplace and facilities professionals to enjoy exciting and successful careers in this diverse and dynamic sector, enabling them to create better workplaces and a new future of work for the benefit of us all.