Why training is key to solving the skills shortage in the facilities management sector


This month, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Leaders’ Forum is taking place in London.

The roundtable will bring together a panel of education professionals and leaders in the FM sector to discuss the skills shortage affecting the industry.

FM sector optimistic about growth but concerned over skills shortage

The FM sector employs around 10% of the UK working population and is estimated to be worth £111 billion a year to the UK economy.

The Facilities Management Outsourcing Market Report UK 2015 – 2019 Analysis stated the outsourced FM market grew 3% in 2015, compared to the market value in 2014, and this is set to continue to 2019.

However, despite the positive figures, impact of the skills shortages in certain, more highly skilled sectors may constrain growth.

43% of FM firms say recruitment challenges are obstacles to prosperity

The BIFM Facilities Management Business Confidence Monitor 2015 saw 65 per cent of professionals from the FM sector state they are planning to increase their workforce.

However, 47 per cent cited the skills shortage as a worry, and 43 per cent said challenges in recruiting and retaining staff are obstacles to prosperity.

This is significant given that 62 per cent of service providers cited competition in the marketplace as the biggest barrier to growth going into 2016.

With problems maintaining a strong, skilled workforce, businesses could see growth stall and find it difficult to remain competitive in the market.

Lack of technical facilities managers is widening the skills gap

The facilities management sector is incredibly broad. Employees with the title ‘Facility Manager’ can range from IT support to a cleaner.

Right now, there is a massive shortage of facilities managers at a technical level.

Many companies are seeking out top tier candidates and this is creating a skills divide.

It is also driving up the average salary, making it harder for SMEs to compete with bigger firms in the industry.

If the skills gap is to be closed, businesses need to start looking for the facilities managers of the future, rather than cherry-picking from a shrinking pool of specialists.

Identifying and nurturing talent emerging through the FM sector

At Almeda we hire people based on aptitude and character, and how this aligns with the business, not the skills set.

One problem we have faced is exposure to relevant experience. Our management go through BIFM training, but they need to learn on the job.

To combat this, employees also undergo internal training, something we push really hard, to learn the technical skills needed.

By implementing an in-house training program, businesses can help reduce the skills gap and bring in a higher calibre of candidates.

Training the facilities managers of the future

Creating opportunities needs to start from the bottom-up and this includes training at an academic level.

We have implemented a £50,000 training budget to deliver world class training through Cranfield University’s Management Development Centre for senior members of staff.

Last year we launched a graduate scheme and are keen to launch a similar scheme with apprenticeships in the near future.

It is possible to do a master’s degree in facilities management, but many of these are completed by people already in the industry.

Funding would be a good incentive for the industry to get involved, and the Apprenticeship Levy – which will be implemented in April 2017 – will encourage businesses to train the younger generation.

Ultimately it is down to the individual business to create training opportunities, and developing an internal training plan is a step towards solving the skills crisis.

We need a 360 view on the future landscape of facilities management so we can start developing the technical facilities managers needed for this now.