Martin Read interviews Linda Hausmanis, the newly appointed director of education at BIFM and the woman behind the institute's educational programme.
22 April 2015 | By Martin Read
Linda Hausmanis has now been with the BIFM for eight years.
Over this time she has been instrumental in the institute's education strategy gaining recognised awarding body status and the development of the suite of qualifications on which the profession now relies and a substantial part of the institute's offering.
The last couple of years have seen no slowing of pace for the BIFM's education department with Linda leading the team as Head of Professional Standards and Education. More than a year ago the institute introduced the FM Professional Standards framework, while it has also helped oversee the introduction of new apprenticeships at levels 2, 3, 4 and 5, developed a new FM careers portal and continued building of the qualifications.
With all of this in mind, the institute recently promoted its head of professional standards and education, Linda Hausmanis, to director of education.
The aim of the post is to give further direction to BIFM's commitments in raising professional standards in the industry and providing a framework of training and education for all practitioners - thus effectively overseeing the completion of a seamless education programme for the facilities management profession.
Finding her passion
In her professional life prior to joining BIFM, Hausmanis had gained much of her formative experience in the financial sector working in corporate finance. Indeed, it took three major life experiences - redundancy, getting married and the birth of her son - for Linda to realise that financial services was not for her and that education was very much her future.
Before BIFM, a role as researcher in the qualifications department for the then Securities Institute (now Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment) had mushroomed into one in which she became involved with preparing the Securities Institute to become a recognised awarding body.
Originally, Hausmanis had seen her researcher role as a temporary one, and was keen to get back into mainstream corporate finance. But then, something happened.
"I was probably a month into that role when I had that light bulb moment," she explains. "Because all I'd ever wanted to do, from about the age of seven, was teach. I'd loved my whole educational experience and had the most enlightening, inspirational teachers one could have hoped for. To this day I think roles dedicated to education are some of the most important that anyone can do. Education is not just about imparting knowledge - you can Google almost everything these days - it should also be about inspiration."
Hausmanis' dreams of becoming a teacher were squashed when the teenage Linda's father died in 1967. "I had to go out to work to help with the family," she recalls. "But that dream was always in the background."
Through the Securities Institute, Hausmanis had effectively got into education though the back door. "I realised I was doing something I absolutely loved - putting together programmes of learning to help people be the best they can be - and at this institute I was fundamentally responsible for the creation of brand new suites of qualifications. We worked with all the large global investment houses who adopted all the qualifications on a global basis - so that really was a fantastic opportunity for a career."
Her work in preparing the Securities Institute for recognition by the regulator ultimately attracted the attention of the BIFM, which initially took Hausmanis on in 2007. Her role was to help oversee delivery of the BIFM's 2006 educational strategy - work that involved getting the BIFM recognised as an awarding body by the then Qualifications Curriculum Authority ((QCA) now Ofqual) that subsequently happened in March 2008.
Hausmanis was appointed as awarding body manager to manage the team and department, ensuring as 'responsible officer' that the institute remained compliant. "On a daily basis I had to make sure BIFM was compliant with conditions of recognition as laid down by Ofqual; I was the person that Ofqual would come to if there were any queries."
In operational terms, many of Hausmanis's responsibilities will remain, although she has recently employed a professional standards and education manager to allow her the space to concentrate on development work.
That work includes development of apprenticeships - Hausmanis is currently working on a Trailblazer apprenticeship for property maintenance - and the new Level 3 FM supervisors apprenticeship. And that's not all.
"I've been approached to take part in another European initiative about developing innovation skills - once your name gets out there "
She accepts the difficulties that FM has had until now in being accepted as a well recognised profession, but believes the education landscape is changing in ways that will ultimately help to define the many opportunities there are in the profession.
"An example of the way society has changed can be seen with the introduction of degrees in entrepreneurship," she says. "People used to believe that you were either born an entrepreneur or you weren't. It couldn't be taught. However, they've analysed the skills and competencies and devised a course to address this now."
She sees in the existence of such courses as something that exemplifies the work that's underway in FM education. FM professionals can often see themselves falling outside of normal channels of professional development, if only because of the lack of visibility of the FM role.
"Historically FM has faced a multitude of challenges both with being a relatively young profession and due to the nature of the work it does. FM has struggled to gain the recognition it deserves in business, in government and in the wider society and yet the sector is worth £111 billion on a par with financial services. We've seen the story change in recent years with people sitting up and taking note of the sector and profession, this is where I'm passionate in continuing to drive that change - ensuring we attract the next generation of FMs, we equip and train our people to the very highest standard and ensure the FM profession is recognised as the complex and vital function that it is."
Back to class
With so much variation in understanding, Hausmanis wants to ensure that education about FM starts at the very beginning - in the school classroom.
"Unfortunately, it is not within my powers to change the whole educational system in the UK, much as I'd like to.
"But I want young people in school to be able to make their own correct choice; so that in the future, when I ask practising FMs why they're in the profession, they'll say, 'it's because I was told at school that I would make a good facilities management professional'."
To this end, there's the Plotr facilities management 'world' - an online resource for school children to explore the many different FM activities, and introduced on Hausmanis's watch. There's also more work for Hausmanis to undertake before the apprenticeship suite is sufficiently comprehensive.
And next year, she hopes to oversee the introduction of a full-time degree course aligned to the FM Professional Standards. Developed by, and to be delivered by Liverpool John Moores' University (LJMU), the degree is scheduled to launch as an undergraduate programme in September 2016 - but the plans are for it to be also introduced this September as a CPD programme. Successful students will thus achieve dual certification from both BIFM and LJMU.
What else can we expect over the next few years?
"Greater international growth and greater recognition of the qualifications will be driven by top service providers," says Hausmanis, "the big companies with global footprints. In fact, the conversations I'm having with those organisations have reminded me of my days in financial services in terms of their global reach, because the qualifications have been designed and written to international standards; every single unit has been written to be non-UK specific - the standard of the qualification is the same, but you can add a local element dealing with national legislation. That's why companies are picking up our qualifications and running them now around the globe."
This repackaging for local territories is important as the BIFM extends its global reach, says Hausmanis.
"For example, in Malaysia we have a very good relationship with the government bodies that represent employers and universities; our qualifications are being delivered to exactly the same specifications, but refer to their own legislation. And where there's a gap, in the absence of their legislation the qualifications will refer by default to the UK. And by doing that, what you are also doing is raising of awareness of the need for such legislation."
The FM Professional Standards were also written with an international audience in mind.
"They've all been written to be non-specific to any one client-side or service provider, and in a concise way to that can be adapted by organisations and applied globally as well."
The standards, she suggests, are "living documents - in fact, one of the things I was most proud of last year, when the ink hadn't quite dried on them, was being able to respond immediately when the Built Environment Professional Education Project (BEPE) committee spoke to me about accessibility and inclusion. We were immediately able to pull people together and change the standards to include accessibility at every single level."
So what's the future for the FM Professional Standards framework?
She says: "We're looking at ways to develop an online assessment tool that will, from an individual's perspective, allow them to map where they are across all the functional areas and stages of an individual's career. It will then produce a professional development plan for them so that they can see where they can develop and at what level they currently are.
"My role is not just about qualifications, it's about every educational intervention an individual can have. Because it's not just about our qualifications; everyone should be on a constant programme of education - reading FM World is part of their education, for instance. And with continuing professional development (CPD) we're looking at all of the standards at the moment and mapping out all of our products and services across each level and each functional area - looking at gaps, working with our employer partners - and if there is a skills shortage I want to be able to ask 'so what skills are you missing?' And that goes back to that entrepreneurial spirit I mentioned earlier."
Finally, are there any areas that might ultimately lead to new educational products?
"Once we finish the gap analysis, we'll see. But from CPD elements are we covering all function areas and all levels of a person's career? We need that gap analysis so that we can then we look at our products, for example, our good practice guides, and set the level they are at and what else we need to do for professionals to support them through that journey - mentoring systems and interventions.
"What we can do is get those degree programmes in place for young people and make sure that the apprenticeships we design are robust, rigorous and will keep their validity, both for individual and employer, in two, three, five years' time."
Five years - a time frame in which plenty is likely to come across Linda Hausmanis's desk.
To find out more about the qualifications and CPD opportunities available through the institute, visit www.bifm.org.uk/yourcareer