Maxwell Stephens

The Skills Shortage in Facilities Management

The September issue of FMX included a discussion exploring the challenges and opportunities for the facilities management sector. One of the key issues outlined was sourcing good facilities management staff with some attendees arguing that there are no clear benchmarks in the way there are in engineering, surveying or accounting and facilities managers tend to not have formal FM-related qualifications. Other said that FM struggles to attract the right people with the right skills because it doesn’t have a clear identity compared to other property management areas.


The BIFM Rising FMs special interest group has long recognised the Skills Shortage in FM – something which was highlighted by Asset Skills in its Assessment for the Facilities Management Industry, published in December 2010.


This showed that one of the biggest contributory factors to the widening FM skills shortage is the age profile of facilities professionals – the FM workforce has a significantly higher proportion of employees aged over 55 (26 per cent, compared with a 17 per cent national average) and a lower proportion of employees aged between 16 and 24 (8 per cent compared with 13 per cent in the UK as a whole). These are worrying statistics.


And it’s going to get worse. It’s predicted the 2012 Olympics will require 22,000 staff, the majority within FM, while the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is likely to have the same requirement. That’s without the impact of Crossrail which will also draw heavily on available FM staff.


Combined with that, the market is growing. Research firm MBD values the FM market at £118.8bn and has projected annual FM market growth rates for the period 2011-15 of between 2 per cent and 4 per cent. This is backed up by the May 2011 Asset Skills Barometer Survey which revealed that 60 per cent of facilities management companies plan to grow either rapidly (17 per cent) or moderately (43 per cent) over the next three years. Further to this 29 per cent stated they planned to move into new areas of activity in the next year. But 42 per cent were hampered by staff without the required skills.


The testing combination of the steady growth in the facilities management market, the ageing profile of the existing workforce and school leavers’ limited recognition of the opportunities within FM, together with major projects attracting FM professionals away from the core market means that this skills gap will continue to widen.


So what can we do about it? This problem can only be addressed by everyone in FM working together. To start with, we need to support the qualification framework for our industry. The new Levels 4,5, and 6 (which have just seen their first successful students) were created with input from employers and need the weight of employers behind them to make them a long-term success. It is all very well for employers to moan that staff are not well-qualified but they need to put their money where their mouth is and invest in training their staff. Yes, some will leave to work for competitors, but if every FM firm trained staff, it would be a virtuous circle for the profession.


Professional FMs need to ensure they keep up-to-date with their own training and development. There are FM events on almost every night of the week many of which are part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) journey. Attending events, perhaps even getting involved in a relevant committee is a good way of staying on top of the FM game. Even reading relevant magazine articles can keep you abreast of the latest developments in the sector.


We also need to make FM a career of choice for school leavers. Again the new qualifications will help that as there is now an opportunity to study facilities management from the age of 14. But we need to get out there and do some of our own PR, talking to young people about the benefits that a career in FM can offer. We are up against some professions which are perceived as having more clout, such as architecture and surveying, and we need to demonstrate how exciting FM really is. The BIFM Guide to Careers in FM, which is distributed to all schools and universities, is a start but facilities professionals themselves also need to spread the word.

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