FM – a career of chance or choice?

Talent shortage. Skills gap. Where is the next generation of facilities management talent going to come from? How can we attract more graduates into our sector? These are phrases and questions we hear constantly in the FM sector. And they were a key topic of debate at the International Facility Management Association’s World Workplace conference, which took place last week, bringing together 4,000 facility professionals from across the globe.

At a packed Women in FM debate, three women in different disciplines and at different stages of their career within Sodexo came up with several good suggestions. There is still a stigma of being toilet fixers and wrench turners, one said, urging the profession to get better at marketing itself for the more strategic work it does. While it was agreed that professional bodies like IFMA, RICS and the BIFM should take a lead in promoting the profession to young people, every FM has a duty to sell the concept of FM to school leavers, they agreed.

At the aptly-named ‘Attracting Millennials to the Profession’ session there was a real abundance of ideas. A panel debate comprising an FM professor, an FM service provider, an FM student and a young FM talked about the usual ideas such as going out to schools, colleges, and universities to explain the benefits of working in the sector; setting up apprenticeships to catch talent students who don’t want to go to university; and paid internships within service providers and client organisations to allow young people to try the sector out.

However, they also put forward some more unusual ideas. The student described how she had decided to study FM when an FM professor came to her college and handed out a leaflet with a large salary figure on it together with a list of the benefits of working in FM. Another had passed out flyers on the beach as part of a beach clean-up programme urging participants to “save the planet, become a facilities manager!”.

There was general agreement that associating FM with issues that millennials cared about, such as the environment, was more likely to attract them to the sector. To this end, another contributor was selling FM within their community by aligning the FM role with the UN 2030 sustainable goals showing how the profession delivered these objectives on the ground.

Yet another practical suggestion was to include a spell in the real estate and FM department as part of a general graduate programmes in businesses so that talented graduates get a taste of it. The benefit, of course, is that even if they don’t choose FM as a career, they’ll understand what FM is when they move into senior business roles in the future. There were other ideas including encouraging a diverse mix of students into apprenticeships schemes or university courses so that potential FMs can see someone like them in the sector, together with getting experienced FMs to mentor college students to ‘sell’ the sector.  All really good ideas which we could adopt in the UK.

Later this month, Bryan McLaggan, the MD of M&E firm CTS, and my fellow BIFM London region committee member, is holding a free event discussing this very topic. Sign up for your place and let’s get a dialogue going and come up with even more ideas to make this a truly global effort: Click here.

And if you’re interested in finding out more about what else happened at World Workplace, read my report on i-FM.

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Ben Keeley