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Professional training is important for career progression, but how do FMs know when to take it to the next level? Lucy Jeynes offers advice.

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05 April 2018 | Lucy Jeynes  

More people than ever before are undertaking professional development in FM and, as a regular trainer for Quadrilect on Level 3, 4 and 6 courses, I’m often asked how to decide whether it’s time to move up. 

BIFM and other professional FM training courses are aligned to a national framework. Level 3 is A-Level standard, Level 4 is equivalent to an HNC, Level 5 to HND and Level 6 is degree standard. A master’s degree is a Level 7 qualification. 

It sounds simple, but there’s another layer within these levels: whether to choose an award, certificate or diploma. These represent a growing number of units studied at the same level. The general rule is that an award gives you an overview of the basic skills and knowledge at that level, a certificate provides more comprehensive coverage and a diploma gives you full understanding of FM at this level.  

Heads down

A decision you’ll need to make when undertaking your qualification – and you want to carry on training – is whether to continue at the same level or move up.  

Let’s say you’re studying for a Level 4 Award. This is 12 credits so that means 120 hours of learning. Depending on the learning pattern you’ve chosen, some or all of that work will be lone study. 

Even with a training provider that covers much of the material in classroom sessions, you will still need to do background reading and write up your assessments. 

By the time you reach diploma standard, you’ll be writing a lot. At Level 4, you’ll need to write up to 10 assessment papers. If writing doesn’t flow easily for you, and you’re stretching yourself outside your work experience in some units, you might end up taking far longer than the prescribed 480 hours of study. 

Will you be able to find that many hours? A lot depends on your home circumstances, and whether your employer grants study leave. Be realistic about the commitment. If you commute, you might study on the train. But some days you’ll be tired, or have other plans after work and you might find it more sensible to plan your study for the mornings only. 

Explaining yourself 

What if you begin a qualification and realise you should have started at a higher level? Look at the requirements for each unit. 

For example, at Level 3, you will typically be asked to describe and explain a particular feature of FM, perhaps using examples from your own workplace.  At Level 6, you might be asked to consider a similar element of FM, but you will typically be required to analyse and critically evaluate it, using examples from a range of organisations and contexts.

What means the most to employers? Make sure that you can explain your qualification. It’s easiest to talk about the level, the number of study hours and how many assessments you completed to pass. You might also want to list the units/topics you have covered. 

While employers are still familiarising themselves with the FM qualifications landscape, it never hurts to provide some helpful background information. 

You could also attend professional events. Most have a continuing professional development number and count towards your CPD. 

Keep a note of the sessions you attend so you can track the hours of development you’ve undertaken in the year. There are also short, subject-focused courses that might map against the FM qualifications framework, but can also be studied as standalone sessions with a certificate of attendance issued at the end.

The Facilities Show and FM Expo run free sessions all day – usually presented by industry experts. And last but not least, this magazine includes ‘How To’ features and case studies by FM experts every month.  

Lucy Jeynes is a founder director of Larch Consulting and regular trainer for Quadrilect