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18 January 2019
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National Apprenticeship Week - Eamon O'Donnell

7 March 2014

Apprentices who have since gone on to succeed in their chosen career are usually the best placed to articulate the value of the apprenticeship path, whatever the industry.

In facilities management, with its many routes into the profession, the experience of those who have since gone on to assume senior positions is even more valuable.

Today, those completely new to the FM industry can choose to start with an apprenticeship at level 2 and progress to a foundation degree, while learners with some previous FM experience looking to progress into senior management could choose the apprenticeship route that combines the BIFM qualifications at levels 4 and 5. But this is a relatively new route into FM-related apprenticeships.

Every day this week we will speak to a senior facilities manager about their experiences.

See more here

Name: Eamon O’Donnell
Job title: General manager, Interserve Support Services

1. How did you become an apprentice?
On leaving school I embarked on the government Youth Training Scheme (YTS), where I was sponsored by an M&E (mechanical and engineering) contractor. I completed a four-year apprenticeship in plumbing and heating, passing out with City & Guilds accreditation.

2. What was your experience? 
As a 16-year-old on a construction site, it was quite daunting at first and I now realise on reflection what a dangerous place construction sites are for young, inexperienced people. Having said that, I had some very good experiences as an apprentice working on some wonderful buildings, such as the House of Lords, Somerset House, House of Commons, Number 1 London, Apsley House and Admiralty Arch. These were amazing buildings with wonderful architecture and steeped in history. I was also lucky enough to see four buildings rise from the ground, as I connected up temporary water mains and was often one of the last off the site when it came to the building hand-over.

3. What advantages has it given you? 
It gave me an understanding of aspects such as the mechanics of buildings, their design and the different types of construction. When dealing with engineers and trades staff, I have an understanding of the problems they are presented with on a daily basis and in some instances this can cut through the difficulty when dealing with non-productive staff who are trying to take advantage of senior management. Also, with the introduction of advanced IT systems as part of the PDA (Professional Development Awards) scheme, I was able to work with the software companies to assist in making it easier to use for trade staff – this really developed my skills working with IT systems/data bases. I was then responsible for rolling out this project to over 450 staff working in the London region.

4. Will today’s apprentices benefit from the same circumstances? 
Absolutely. Unfortunately I don’t believe we allocate the correct resources to train these young people. The correct time spent with these individuals watching and supporting their growth and understanding is key. I was lucky enough to work with some wonderful characters, who not only taught me my trade skills, but also helped to develop my life skills. Various things such as never walking down the stairs with your hands in your pocket, always looking at the bigger picture when it comes to setting out what you want to achieve, never walk across a sheet of ply on the floor (there may be a 50ft drop below it) and make sure you warm the pot when making the tea! These are life skills you never forget.

5. Who would benefit from an FM apprenticeship? 
Those that really want to be involved, have a want-to-learn attitude and are willing to listen to and take on board advice from experienced staff members working in facilities management. As important are those people that can get up in the morning, be punctual and respond and react to a chain of command, with aspirations to work in the industry.