Taking an entry-level FM apprenticeship course could lead to any number of roles and there are endless opportunities available, says Frank Clayton.
10 March 2016 | By Frank Clayton
Offering apprenticeships has been, and continues to be, vital to the success of NG Bailey, and of the industry.
Apprentices make up more than 5 per cent of our business, and by continuing to introduce new people to facilities management, we are increasing the pool of talent available and tackling the skills gap. The company has been recruiting apprentices for more than 80 years and, as a result, has invested in the futures of more than 5,500 young people.
So what have we learnt about how to invest in apprentices? Well, it's about spotting people with the right qualities and intuition and giving them the requisite resources and training. Here are some of the key components involved in creating a top apprentice.
1. Select people who are committed
There are some fantastic opportunities around today for apprentices to work on major schemes across the UK and in-house at large organisations. But the FM industry needs committed, driven people who want to get something out of an apprenticeship beyond qualifications and experience - a future. Why should FM managers invest in their apprentices if they aren't in it for the long term?
2. Set goals
As their coach, it's your role to guide and support your apprentices. To do that you need to set challenging goals and give them something to aim towards. Let them know what's achievable and help them get there. Set objectives so that you can track their progress. This encourages them to be ambitious and forward-thinking. Focus on empowering your people to drive their own development, using the resources and training facilities available within your business.
Trust them to make decisions about how they use these tools and put their learning into practice. This will provide them with the independence and self-assurance they need to drive their apprenticeship.
When you know the type of training they require, look at all the options available to provide it. Use learning management systems that offer learning exercises and can be accessed on the go via mobile, tablet or desktop to aid in their development. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that all development is formal - the knowledge and experience of your people is an invaluable part of an apprentice's growth.
Most importantly, make sure everything they do is measurable. If you can't evaluate their work, how will you know what their needs are?
3. A disciplined approach
When apprentices make a mistake, they must learn from it. Make sure they understand why they made that mistake and how they could have prevented it. A disciplined approach early on can be the making of them. We've seen apprentices learn from their mistakes and really flourish. In most cases they've never made the same mistake again. Guide them and help them rectify their mishaps, giving them the added support they need. Leaving them to fix it on their own may only alienate them.
4. Create ambassadors
Let your apprentices know what your organisation is all about and what the future holds. This will help them feel involved. Explaining your business's ethos and values will help them adopt a similar way of thinking, so that they can truly become your ambassadors and champions. This is especially important when your apprentices are working face to face with customers or other areas of your business, which is common in FM.
We also recommend offering a bespoke induction for your apprentice class each year, producing a regular apprentice newsletter that recognises the good work of your team. Consider holding an annual apprenticeship conference, so that you can update them on projects and get them to buy into what needs to be achieved.
5. Hard work pays off
Let apprentices know from the start that they have to work hard to keep a good job. It's important they know that if they put in the work from day one it will serve them throughout their career. Explain this to your apprentices, so they can understand the journey they are on and that hard work does pay off, and that a senior position in a company doesn't come easy.
There may also be an opportunity for you to enter them into awards, so their efforts can be acknowledged by a wider audience and so they can see the competition that's out there.
6. The sky's the limit
Apprentices have a unique opportunity, and that needs instilling in them from the start of their careers. Taking an entry-level apprenticeship course could lead to any number of roles and there are endless opportunities available. A lot of FM managers and directors begin their careers as apprentices. Your recruits could end up in senior roles at major companies across the FM industry. So it's not just about providing them with the technical expertise they need.
It's about showing them the bigger picture and equipping them with the leadership skills they will need to be a success.
Frank Clayton is head of group learning and development at NG Bailey