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23 October 2019
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Deborah Rowland web
Deborah Rowland

24 June 2019 | Bradford Keen

Facilities management needs new recruits. The average age of an FM is 49, 50 per cent of whom are retiring within the next 10 years.


Furthermore, there are 500,000 current job openings in the sector and only 1,000 graduate recruitments entering FM each year.


Deborah Rowland, director of public services affairs at Sodexo, shared the distressing reality on a panel discussion at Facilities Show 2019, entitled ‘Skills & talent in FM’.


“There’s a massive problem here. We just don’t have the talent pipeline. One of the big issues is how we make FM a sexy industry for people to be interested in,” said Rowland.


Lucy Jeynes, managing director of Larch Consulting, told the audience how she had signed up to participate in the ‘Inspiring the Future’ programme, for which professionals dedicate an hour of their time to discuss career options at schools. A “prestigious private boys’ school” wanted Jeynes to visit but only to talk about her consultancy experience, as the school told her FM was “not for our boys”.


“And I thought where does that kind of snobbery come from that it is not considered to be a premium career when actually there are all of these opportunities? You can work for really good, well-known companies, you can get right to the top of the industry. Perhaps we haven’t spoken enough about the opportunities and the levels people can get to and the professional jobs you could end up in,” she said.


Rowland has been talking about FM’s opportunities. She recounted a recent LinkedIn exchange in which a “young chap from the Middle East … was going for a job in FM but didn’t know what FM was; he thought it sounded interesting”.


After she had advised him on what to expect from FM and why it was a good career choice, he told Rowland that he now understood what the industry was about. “You're just responsible for everyone’s happiness.”


The sense of purpose within FM roles needs to be communicated to younger people, said Jeynes, telling how her daughter – a Gen-Zer – was following the Twitter feed of Churchill’s managing director Anthony Law about the need to reduce single-use plastics.


“My daughter said, ‘I’d love to work for a company like that … with a boss that is passionate about the oceans.’ It was that sense of purpose that she had highlighted as the first characteristic she'd look at in an employer,” Jeynes said.


The panel highlighted some of the skills an FM would need to thrive in the industry, which include:


      Having strong interpersonal skills, with a genuine interest in getting to know every person in the workplace regardless of their rank;

      Being driven;

      Solving problems;

      Taking criticism and learning from mistakes;

      Showing grit; and

      Fostering a learning mindset.