There is an increasing need for the management of estates and facilities to use resource wisely. This has led to a review in many instances of how skills and personnel are used. Many of the jobs of facilities managers can be grouped together and it has led to a change in the way training and re-training is designed when FM managers may now need to manage other disciplines apart from their own specialist areas. The pattern is increasingly for training to equip FMs to be skilled in maintenance, cleaning, security and other duties as one piece of work where appropriate and where it makes sense. There are issues of reducing the more specific, traditional skills and can one person really be skilled enough across all of these areas to ensure a site or multi-sites can function efficiently? James Blackhurst, managing director of Jigsaw Training discusses the issues.
The facilities management industry is changing. Many companies act as managing agents and sub-contract most activities. Others look to self perform as many of the outsourced tasks as possible and are developing a policy of cross-training and multi-skilling.
It is through this emerging approach that resources can be maximised in terms of responsiveness, flexibility and efficiencies, whilst maintaining effective control across all disciplines.
In essence, when we describe facilities management we are talking about the co-ordination of related services to support buildings of all kinds such as airports, shopping malls, educational institutions and hospitals.
An essential service, therefore, to ensure these buildings – and the people who pass through them for whatever reason – are able to operate efficiently to safeguard everyone’s safety.
At the same time, there are skill shortages which affect this industry sector by sector, with the projected job vacancies almost double the number of young people coming out of schools and colleges.
With the increasing use of technologies to achieve efficiencies in time and cost, the type and emphasis of training also needs to change.
In the security sector, for example, employees at various levels need to understand the complexities of touch-screen technology and access control to fully maximise their benefits.
In one case, we have developed a programme following a review of the activities at MiTec, the UK’s newest hi-tech security hub developed by MITIE, designed to protect some of the world’s largest companies, based at Craigavon, Northern Ireland.
Here, we developed 12 modules for the programme working with the MITIE senior team, aimed to further develop the control room operators and supervisors to raise their skill level and give them a formal development programme.
In other sectors, such as cleaning, technology is less important, where the new application of methods may be more important and how people work individually and in teams. This includes upskilling cleaners at all levels to work with new types of materials such as new liquids which require careful use in high risk areas such as hospitals and schools.
There is an increasing lobby within the cleaning industry to upskill all cleaners through a recognised, structured programme of training such as City and Guilds, and this can only be welcomed in one sector which has lagged behind for such a long time.
Looking at the wider picture, the facilities management industry itself is moving in a mature direction. Indeed, the proposed merger of Asset Skills, CSSA and the FMA is part of a vision to create a new and consolidated industry body.
By developing one lead body, the FM industry is demonstrating that it needs to educate and support service providers who are faced with cost-cutting, new technology opportunities, increased pressures on service agreements and a need to provide all necessary skills from one source.
There have been various drivers behind the proposed merger, one being the rationalisation that is needed within an industry that has forced employers to review all of their costs.
However, there is the inherent danger of compromising specialist skills, which should not be lost along the way to embracing effectiveness.
So does multi-skilling for increased effectiveness really work?
The answer is yes, but don’t lose those essential skills by doing it. How we develop and nurture these relevant skills into our workforce is the secret, whilst embracing new methods and technologies.
Furthermore, the development of skills for the FM sector has also made multi-skilling an option for many organisations where it previously did not exist.
On one level the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) and apprenticeships are now a key element in upskilling and multi-skilling. Along with knowledge of health and safety – an integral part of facilities management – this is making individuals more rounded and ready for some of the new types of roles available.
Although initially slow to take off, organisations of all sizes now see the benefits that apprentices bring to the facilities services industry. Increased productivity, improved competitiveness and a committed and competent workforce that understands the need for working differently with different technologies.
These roles may include maintenance of complex sites in healthcare, education or retail and may require multi-skills of individuals in such areas as maintenance, team leadership and management.
In the public sector, local authorities are using apprenticeships to help upskill their facilities management services through the apprenticeship framework, an intermediate level 2 Facilities Services Apprenticeship that equips young people with the skills to progress into the industry once they are qualified.
As part of the scheme, apprentices receive training as site agents responsible for security, heating and lighting, cleanliness and maintenance in schools and other estate buildings.
This more rounded, progressive approach gives reassurance to those organisations looking to outsource their FM support in the first place.
Sustaining it at a level which is relevant and appropriate case by case – and protects the safety of all concerned – is the wider challenge as the industry progresses for the future.
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