Following the issues experienced over the last 18 months in recruiting staff within all areas of the FM sector, there has been a notable increase in awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships and their potential to attract young talent.
This has been further emphasised through the various initiatives celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2023 around the UK and was a major theme at the recent IWFM Rising FMs event, held at the Miller Knoll showroom in central London.
The event was chaired by Nomura facilities assistant and former apprentice George Carter, who introduced four panel members prior to their presentations and question and answer sessions. The first of these were Great Portland Estates (GPE) customer experience manager and former apprentice, Jose Neto, and DHL UK and FM infrastructure manager Jared Smith.
Mr Carter then introduced Bolton University’s Professor Peter Farrell and IWFM partnership director Jonathan Nobbs, both of whom have central interests in the instruction and recruitment of apprentices.
Professor Farrell was invited to deliver the first presentation to delegates and began by emphasising the benefits of continuous professional development (CPD) exercises and explaining how improving the accountability of individuals through apprenticeship learning leads to appreciably higher levels of professionalism. This benefits apprentices, their employers and clients, while further assisting the raising of the FM industry profile through their efforts and also supporting them to achieve their potential.
He further described the various levels of apprenticeships available, up to the level of Bachelor of Science (BSc) qualifications and the commitment this would require in terms of attendance at further education sites and remote working, combined with on-the-job (OTJ) training.
Following this, panel members were presented with a series of questions by Mr Carter, beginning with Messrs Neto and Smith and asking how they had been attracted to their FM apprenticeship courses. Mr Neto stated that he found his apprenticeship had allowed him to study and work at the same time, while providing a valuable introduction to and understanding of all aspects of the FM industry.
Confirming these points, Mr Smith additionally found an apprenticeship to provide a highly effective means to assist his desire to enable a change in career. His training helped him to develop the necessary skills to do this while further extending his interest in the sustainable use of buildings.
It quickly became apparent that Mr Smith had completed his apprenticeship under the instruction of Professor Farrell, allowing them to provide further insight to the delegates on how they had worked together. In the course of their partnership, Professor Farrell advised Mr Smith to speak to senior colleagues at his company, which led to numerous benefits that included the gaining of a significantly wider viewpoint and increased levels of confidence.
Mr Neto further explained how his apprenticeship had assisted him in gaining more appreciation from his employer and colleagues and stated how he regarded the role of his college as central within this. He additionally explained the importance of receiving good levels of support from his company and senior managers, which again assisted him in a number of positive ways.
Discussion of the potential for the recruitment of higher numbers of apprentices to address many of the issues affecting the FM sector was provided by Mr Nobbs. Emphasising the urgent need to attract more young people to work in the industry, he stated that all apprentices were able to claim free IWFM membership and take advantage of the comprehensive support available to individuals at all stages of their professional development.
There was general agreement between panel members on the need to increase efforts throughout the FM sector to attract more young people and explain the numerous advantages provided by apprenticeship courses. The FM industry was deemed to be at a disadvantage to other sectors due to its low levels of understanding and awareness within many areas of UK society.
Higher levels of communication with all areas of education were advised by the panel, with the intention of encouraging more school leavers to consider the FM industry when looking for their career options. It was agreed that there was no “quick fix” available to address the lack of understanding and that efforts to promote it are likely to take a number of years before making a notable difference to the current situation.
Following a question-and-answer session between delegates and panel members, further insight was shared to highlight the many positive aspects of apprenticeship learning and the challenges that need to be addressed and appreciated in order to improve the benefits being received.
The event closed with the suggestion that an online discussion group be created, with the intention of continuing the points raised during the evening and encouraging more involvement with apprentices and apprenticeship learning from all areas of the FM sector.