Facilities management offers a chance to develop your career in a diverse, exciting and rapidly expanding area of the economy. The sector is now thought to be worth up to £95 billion a year. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing professions in the UK, and covers an increasingly broad range of responsibilities.
These range from property strategy, space management and communications infrastructure to building maintenance, administration and contract management. The strength and success of any organisation depends to an extent on its facilities management.
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A facilities manager helps the client to get as much as they can out of their facility, assisting them in meeting their business objectives. The aim is to help the client to function effectively on a day-to-day basis, and to provide a safe, efficient and comfortable working environment for staff.
As well as the building itself, facilities management is also concerned with support services including catering, security, the postroom, cleaning and often health and safety and environmental regulations. IT and telephony systems may also fall within their remit. All these services have a direct impact on the daily working lives of a client’s employees.
Done properly, facilities management can boost an organisation’s image, enable new working styles and processes, and provide business continuity and workforce protection in an era of potentially heightened security threats. It can also be particularly important to an organisation which needs to integrate its processes following a change such as a merger or an acquisition, or project manage a refurbishment or relocation of a company’s premises.
Anne Marie Gibbons, facilities manager on a Highways Agency contract in Bedford says: “Providing a first-class facilities management service is about having a detailed knowledge of the contract requirements, and developing excellent client and service partner relationships.”
Tony Angel, managing director of Edifice Limited, says: “The best bit is seeing a project through to completion, using my knowledge and experience to help clients achieve their objectives.
“If we want to be treated as professionals we need to think and act like professionals. This means more becoming qualified, and gaining a greater understanding of business and finance.”
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Professionals in the field made on average from £39,200 to £43,400 in 2008, and from £41,000 to £44,900 in 2009, according to figures from jobs posted on CareerStructure.com.
Hours and environment
Forget about 9 to 5. You will have to be extremely flexible as far as working hours are concerned. Evening and weekend work is often needed to meet client expectations, and you will often have to work long days. Services are often provided on a 24/7 basis, and sometimes in an emergency a building needs to be opened at short notice.
It’s likely that you’d spend about half of your time in an office, but you’ll also be attending, and possibly chairing, meetings with suppliers and clients. You’ll almost certainly need to be flexible and willing and able to travel, since you may well be managing more than just a single facility.
Because management of multiple facilities is common, you also need to be prepared to face a fast-paced and hectic environment in which every day poses fresh challenges.
Skills and interests
Facilities managers negotiate with people at all levels, from cleaner to company director, and so must have excellent people skills. You’ll need to behave professionally and fairly at all times, and be able to express yourself well, both when speaking and in writing. The ability to work within a team is another essential pre-requisite, as is the ability to take control of a situation and resolve it with minimal disruption to the business operations.
Facilities managers also have to be numerate, literate and possess a sound knowledge of health, safety and environmental legislation within the built environment. You will have to demonstrate excellent leadership qualities and be able to juggle multiple and often conflicting priorities.
The range of organisations providing facilities management means a wealth of opportunities is potentially available. Public-private partnership funding is on the rise, and this has boosted opportunities in the profession. Equally, facilities managers tend to be entrepreneurial and proactive by nature, and this has stood them in good stead.
There is every indication that jobs in the facilities management sector will continue to grow at the same rate as other professions.
Chairman of the British Institute of Facilities Management Iain Murray says: “Facilities management has definitely fared better during the recession than many other professions, and this is broadly due to the ongoing need to supply core services such as cleaning, maintenance, catering and security. There has been a general move to tighten spending and many of the ‘nice to have’ items have been stripped out, but there is still good growth in the sector and we are pleased to see good uptake of apprenticeships and training.”
Many universities now offer qualifications in facilities management at degree or HND level, but this won’t necessarily be a pre-requisite for entering the profession. People who’ve worked in construction, building services or engineering often go into facilities management, others have been in a very business-focused environment where they have acquired skills such as budget management and cost control.
Several universities also offer post-graduate qualifications, and the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) has accredited some of these.
It’s possible to enter the profession as an apprentice working towards an NVQ or Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) certificate in facilities management. Equally, since September last year, it has been possible for young people aged between 14 and 19 to follow a Construction and the Built Environment Diploma, developed by Asset Skills with employers and learning providers.
Training and advancement
It’s now possible to develop a career in facilities management in various ways. Many multi-service providers also offer design, build, finance and management services, offering plenty of scope for diversification.
Both the BIFM and the ILM offer qualifications in facilities management. The BIFM offers a range of qualifications and courses providing opportunities for career development at various levels, and also runs an annual conference.
National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) and Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) are very useful to have in this profession.
As a facilities manager, you could be working for a specialist department, in-house contractor, a large multi-service company or a large corporate organisation. Facilities managers are to be found in both the private and public sectors.
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