Although the global pandemic has thrown up questions about the future of offices and workspaces, it has also thrown the importance of future-proofing workforces into sharp relief.
Covid-19 has made it harder to recruit, so it’s vital for businesses to ensure that they have a solid pipeline of talent with the right skills. Focusing on training and upskilling the workforce has never been more important.
Monday 8 February marked the start of National Apprenticeship Week, the 14th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships, taking place across England.
For Jake Drummond and Carly Sandle, FM professionals within the Ministry of Justice who are studying towards apprenticeship qualifications, these opportunities have played a huge role in helping them to develop their careers. Jake said: “I saw embarking on an apprenticeship as a great opportunity to expand my learning within FM and to apply higher-level learning into my professional practice.
“I’m working towards an MBA through an apprenticeship route so it allows me to do both of those things, while building a great network of colleagues in the industry. It’s been a brilliant experience.”
Sandle had a similar experience, and highlighted the support that has been available from her employer and training providers in developing her skills. She said: “The support I’ve received from the Ministry of Justice and Sheffield Hallam University – where I’m doing my training – has been first-class.
“So far I’ve started working with a wide range of colleagues in the MoJ, people who I normally wouldn’t have interacted with, which has really strengthened my understanding of wider organisational strategy.”
In 2020, FM has been at the forefront of the pandemic response. Making sure workplaces are safe and accessible is critical for almost every business in the UK. Apprentices like Drummond and Sandle have been embedded in the work the Ministry of Justice has been doing to keep the department operational.
Sandle reflected on the importance of the skills she learned on her apprenticeship and how they’ve helped her to respond to the crisis. She said: “The day-to-day work continues, however, we have had to find new and innovative ways of completing it while keeping all those who use our estate safe.
“I rarely attend a meeting now without Covid-19 being mentioned at least once. The leadership module of the apprenticeship was well-timed as it fell just before summer 2020 and enabled me to develop my skills to better support my team through the pandemic. I feel I know my colleagues better than when we were working in the same office as there has been an increased focus on wellbeing through the pandemic and we have purposely reached out to one another more regularly, recognising the importance of human interaction, even virtually, while we may have been isolated from each other.”
Drummond feels that the FM industry could learn a great deal from the pandemic, and do more to promote the role of the industry in keeping businesses going through any crises. He said: “For me, the pandemic has thrust FM into the spotlight more so than it has ever been. With a greater focus on the physical environment and an ever-increasing expectation of customers and stakeholders, I feel the industry can use this as a platform to really reinforce the fact that FM is more than simply an enabling function – it is core to any organisation’s purpose.
“Lots of good work has happened this year which has raised the industry’s profile – such as the concept of the workplace being more than simply bricks and mortar, and I think we’ve got a real opportunity to build on this moving forward.”
There are hundreds of events and celebrations taking place throughout National Apprenticeship Week, including a series of virtual learning sessions for government property professionals.
Janet Young, chief property officer in HM Government, said: “Every property Apprentice in Government is supported, with dedicated and expert help from their department, and our Property Professionals team. We work with Apprentices and Departments to make sure everyone has the skills to succeed.
“That investment in time, and resources, is repaid ten-fold by the talent we create. It’s helping us build our workforce of the future, it helps make sure we have a pipeline of talent, and can attract, retain, and develop, skilled people who do great work.”