FM is very much a practical discipline, which is why a typical FM once measured their worth more in experience than qualifications, but new breed of facilities management professional is coming to the fore - possessed of strong life skills and with recourse to a wider range of experiences.
The typical FM used to measure their worth more through experience than qualifications. But that is changing; a new form of facilities manager is emerging - one with powerful interpersonal skills and a wider range of experiences to call upon.
Peter Forshaw, managing director of recruiter Maxwell Stephens, has been in the recruitment industry for 15 years and is now seeing more employers stipulating that they will only consider individuals with higher qualifications. It's the reason why increasing numbers of candidates have gone to university to complete an FM degree.
He says: "They may have started with practical experience, but then they go into training and complete Level 4/5 and some of the good ones actually go on to doing Level 6 too."
Beth Goodyear of FMHS Consulting confirms this new drive for learning.
"FMs are looking at all levels, not just Level 4 or 5, but Level 3 and the lower levels as people realise that for your CV to stand out and to be seen as an FM professional you need more than experience, and employers are looking for that."
But Lucy Jeynes of Larch Consulting believes that by 2020 universities won't be the only places where FMs can increase their learning.
"You can get on really well in FM based on your ability to get things done," says Jeynes, "so I think it's a career that will continue to lend itself very well to vocational apprenticeships as well as graduate entry."
Aside from specific job-related training, FMs are increasingly expected to demonstrate behavioural competencies and it's now vitally important for FMs to hone their interpersonal skills.
"It's all about communications and people skills," says Forshaw. "If you've got them, you can manage anything. Service providers recruiting for senior level roles prioritise communication, presentation and an ability to stand up and communicate in the room."
The FM job itself has always covered a myriad of tasks, and this is increasingly reflected in the sorts of FM positions on offer. According to Richard Gelder, UK sector director, property & built environment at Hays Recruitment, there's now far greater demarcation and specialisation than 20 years ago. He's seeing quite specific job titles, whether it is soft services manager, moves manager, facilities manager or engineering manager.
"Some of this is because the sector has evolved, and by definition people have become more 'niche'. But much is technologically driven. If you look at BMS [building management systems] now, it's getting increasingly complicated; as the tech has changed, some of those roles have changed."
Indeed, buildings are increasingly complex, and sustainability and energy management also have to be considered. This is why, says Lucy Jeynes, today's facilities managers still need some understanding of the technical side: "You will not deliver as an FM if you don't fill in your knowledge gaps."
There's also an interesting demographic dynamic at play. Gelder believes FMs in their twenties and early thirties are not rooted to the same career patterns of those who started out in the 1980s and 90s. Back then, FMs tended to stay in the same firm for longer; but Gelder believes younger people have a mindset of doing two or three things during their career and having multiple jobs.
This is why, he says, the sector must drive home the fact that when you come and work in FM there are many ways you can progress.
"FM offers such flexibility and you can go a million different ways," says Gelder. "As the BIFM says, 'you come in the front door of FM and you can do anything'."
And Beth Goodyear agrees: "From catering to client dining, reception to security to CCTV, the list of things an FM manages has only grown; nothing has dropped off the bottom."
Younger FMs are likely to continue developing a portfolio career, and FMs of all ages and gender will think more about their personal work/life balance.
But 21st century FMs can, however, still learn a lot from the FMs who helped build the sector in the first place.
"Mature FMs are tough, experienced, and entrepreneurial and have managed FM services in both a rising market and a recession," says Jeynes. "Younger FMs have a lot to learn from them."
But there are words of warning from Duncan Carter, director, Macallam Executive Recruitment.
He, too, sees a steady flow of requirements for experienced FMs with strong communication, commercial, customer skills and often technical service line knowledge. However, "the changing demands of many client environments are driving the need for greater skill sets. In some cases we see more emphasis on senior skills in commercial and change management than the need for technically driven people who understand a specific client sector", he says.
Some organisations bring people into the FM sector at general manager or account level from other industries.
"There's a view that FM can be quickly learnt, and the sector has become over-inflated with high-salaried, often average people.
"In sectors such as manufacturing, it's possible to find well-qualified, graduate-calibre managers with sophisticated management, large team management, process and Six Sigma skills for much lower salaries. These people can also bring new ideas into a maturing market. As contractors come under increasing cost pressure, these are attractive options."
He adds: "There is still a significant need for FM experience by contractors who feel they need to present people to their clients who have knowledge in FM and experience in that sector. It's a case of can they influence their client to recruit someone from outside? In the main, qualifications are less important than a proven ability to deliver results."