A vital function

Facilities Management

As a profession, facilities management (FM) is relatively new and in recent years the role played by the facilities manager - or ‘estates bursar’ as they are often called in schools – has grown in significance. With the current economic challenges, particularly in the public sector, the drive for efficiency is all-important and the performance of the FM/estates bursar function has and will continue to make a major contribution. In many cases the FM is involved in helping develop the overall strategy to ensure the effective operation of schools and education institutions.

“This role has become a key function in most educational establishments, providing the communications link between the academic provision and the underpinning services,” says Simon Lymn, facilities manager for the Royal Grammar School Newcastle and chair of the Asset Skills Technical Advisory Group. “Leadership and management skills are now as key to the role as the technical knowledge required to maintain the fabric of the building.”

The growing need for services in education can be seen by the amount of outsourcing now taking place. Many business services companies provide an increasing range of support services to education. These companies form a key part of the UK economy themselves, and provide a wide range of functions in schools including catering, cleaning, waste management and building maintenance. Within each area there is a need for investment in skills specific to the education world. Many outsourcing businesses are looking at the technical and management/soft skills required to deliver an effective and efficient service to their education clients.

Skills challenges

As the importance of FM in education has grown, so has the need for the skills to meet the new challenges. The regulatory and technical knowledge required to deliver FM in schools has been increasing.

For example, the Building Schools for the Future programme resulted in many school caretakers and site managers needing to learn new technical knowledge on building controls. Senior facilities managers in education have had to develop their leadership and management skills - particularly project management, staff management, contracts management, procurement, financial and services management - alongside their technical skills.

It was only recently that the range of FM-specific technical qualifications caught up with the needs of the sector. This has been particularly true of entry-level qualifications. Asset Skills has been working with employers and professional bodies, in particular the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), to address this gap. Last year was a landmark year for FM in terms of the development of a full structure of new qualifications that will support career development. In 2010, an Apprenticeship in Facilities Management became available to support new entrants. The content of the apprenticeship can be set successfully into an education context. It is one of a new range of management apprenticeships, and has a number of options leading into it which would be relevant to the education sector (see below).

Working with employers in local authorities and the outsourcing industry, Asset Skills has recently updated the entry-level qualification option for caretakers and support service technicians. For many years, it had been assumed that caretakers could undertake the maintenance orientated units within the Cleaning and Support Services qualifications. Now a caretaking and property management (also dual titled Facilities Services) qualification at Level 2 is available.

These new qualifications are all part of a career pathway which links to higher-level programmes such as FM foundation degrees, the recently updated BIFM qualifications and postgraduate qualifications. Candidates completing the entry-level programmes will have options open to them and can see their career pathway in FM supported by further qualifications. A full career pathway will help more entrants to choose FM as a career rather then enter into the sector ‘accidentally’ as has historically been the case (the full pathway can now be seen on the careers section of the Asset Skills website).

Time to grow your own

There has been a growing argument that facilities management could do more to be recognised as a profession. One key part of this is being seen as a career of choice to new entrants. Asset Skills believes the low numbers of people in FM without a specific qualification in facilities management is one of the barriers to raising the profile of the industry and gaining professional recognition. Industry relevant vocational qualifications, particularly at lower levels, and clear career pathways for those entering and working in FM, are key elements of professional recognition. This would also enable the sector to ensure succession planning and grow managers for the future with appropriate technical skills.

As the range of qualifications relating to the sector has grown, so has the interest in gaining a qualification and developing specific skills in FM. To support this growing demand for skills from all areas, not just education, Asset Skills has formed the UK Academy for Business Services to help the FM sector access qualifications, specialist training providers and tap into funding when this is available. Many employers are also recognising the need to develop skills specifically related to the provision of FM in the education world, as well as the need to develop careers awareness to attract younger people. An example of this is an initiative to develop FM skills centres by outsourcing company MITIE. This is directly linked to their education contracts (see case study below).

Investing in training and development to support skills improvement should be an essential part of the response to the current funding cuts and financial challenges for all parts of the education sector. This should be true for FMs on an individual basis and for their teams at any time to ensure succession planning and professional development. In the current climate, many facilities managers in education are looking to develop their skills. Investing in industry specific qualifications should be part of the plan to meet the continuing challenges of the current time.

The Employers Guide to the FM Apprenticeship and FM Career Pathways are available at www.assetskills.org

The FM Advanced Apprenticeship Framework (Level 3)

There are three parts to the FM Apprenticeship:
Theory – a knowledge-based element or taught programme – in the case of FM this is currently the ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) Level 3 certificate in FM. This qualification can also be taken on its own and at three levels (award, certificate and diploma). Standalone, this is also suitable for a less experienced candidate (under two years).

Practice – a competence-based element – Certificate in FM (previously NVQ) at Level 3. Offered by awarding bodies such as City and Guilds, FDQ, WAMITAB and Edexcel, this enables the candidate to demonstrate how they are applying knowledge in the context of their job. Standalone this is suitable for a more experienced FM candidate.

Functional or Key Skills – Employment Rights & Responsibilities. Common to all apprenticeship programmes, including the application of numbers/maths and communications/English. Information technology is not mandatory but candidates are encouraged to take this as a key skill. Candidates with existing qualifications may be exempt from functional skills elements.

MITIE Case study

MITIE has a significant amount of facilities management related contracts, especially long-term contracts at PFI schools around the UK. The FM sector is expected to continue to grow and therefore it is important that MITIE is looking to ‘home grow’ their future workforce and invest in the education and training of students at some of the schools where they operate.

MITIE intends to establish FM Skills Centres at three secondary schools in the UK along similar lines to the seven MITIE Construction Skills Centres already set up. In consultation with clients they have already selected the first FM Skills Centre to be hosted at Tynecastle High School in Edinburgh. The second one will be at Primrose High School in Leeds and the third will be in Luton. The students will typically be between 16 and 18-years-old and be seriously considering their future career options.
A new vocational NVQ level 2 Facilities Services qualification has been developed by the FM Sector Skills Council, Asset Skills, in consultation with MITIE and other employers and has been accredited as a national qualification. MITIE will provide mentoring and invaluable work experience for the students to complement their theoretical learning as an integral part of this vocational course.
In preparation for the NVQ level 2 Facilities Services qualification starting at Tynecastle High School in the new academic year (August 2011), MITIE people are providing an ‘Introduction to Facilities Management’ module for the students, covering important generic communication and employability skills.


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