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What can the armed forces do for FM? Herpreet Kaur Grewal finds out. 
Armed Forces
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05 August 2019 |  Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Armed Forces Day in June highlighted how the skills of armed forces personnel can benefit facilities management. 

Service personnel have developed a bank of experience performing FM-type support roles within the military so moving into civilian FM roles can often be an attractive proposition. Plus, they tend to retire from the forces at quite a young age, generally around 45, so they have a lot of working life left. 

Rob Farman, a principal at FM firm Abacus FMEC and trainer of people leaving the Armed Forces, says: “When I teach building maintenance, I have had senior non-commissioned officers and clerks of work (warrant officers) from the Royal Engineers and I know they know more about buildings than I will ever do.”

The three main services, despite having different cultures, focus on being adaptable, reliable and getting the job done.

The RAF, for instance, has specialist airmen and officers that manage the estate on stations and in HQs. Farman says: “In short, they have training and experience of managing FM providers. RAF engineering technicians are the bulk of the RAF and their skills can be used in FM maintenance.”

In the army the Royal Engineers (RE) have people trained in M&E and building and civil engineering, which are directly transferrable skills. The Institution of Royal Engineers can award EngTech, IEng and CEng.  Within corps and regiments, people are appointed into FM roles and have experience of managing FM providers, Farman adds. 

The Royal Navy has logistics sailors and officers, who, like their RAF counterparts, have training in and experience of managing FM providers.  

Farman says: “As I have said on the courses I teach, ‘A ship is just a self-propelled metal building floating on the sea’, and the sailors have agreed. Many of the systems on ships have equivalents on shore; I doubt if any building has a lift capable of moving an F35 Lightning fighter upward as on an aircraft carrier. One client I had employed former nuclear submarine sailors, who devised the procedures for maintaining data centre infrastructure and implemented them.”

Aircraft, armoured vehicles and ships all have structure and systems within them, just as buildings have. Thus, maintaining the fabric of a building’s structure and its engineering services is similar. 

Some of the qualities that unite the roles to make them a good match for FM include the rigour used in selection. As Farman said: “You need people that can quickly obtain, analyse and act well on limited information when needed.  You need people that can think tactically and, at more senior levels, strategically; those terms come from the military in the first place! Those innate personal qualities are developed through training, exercises and experience and are very valuable to FM.”

Communication skills gained from teamwork in the military are also important as facilities managers need to collaborate with many different departments. 

With the likes of support services provider Mitie launching a portal for veterans seeking a career in FM, the skillset of armed forces personnel look set to become more coveted. 

Emma Potter