As recruitment pools start to dry up, facilities management Middle East reports on how the industry can entice younger generations into FM.
Encouraging the younger generation to consider a career in FM is an area the FM industry is facing on an international level.
Although the Middle East is starting to suffer from a recruitment pool drought, the main concern in the Middle East is not attracting FMs to the region, but attracting the younger, local generation that FM is a worthwhile, fulfilling career that can give them job satisfaction.
"It's disappointing there aren't many UAE nationals in facilities management," says Graham Yates, head of Aldar Facilities Businesses.
"It's apparent that FM isn't appealing to the young people and there needs to be plans in place to address these issues."
Currently, there are three education establishments in the Middle East offering FM courses, however, only one of these is at degree level.
What's on offer?
The Fire Safety Engineering College in Oman is affiliated with the University of Central Lancashire and offers a degree in FM. Students successfully completing all four years of the course will graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Facilities Management. The fourth year is spent at the University of Central Lancashire.
"The final year is currently completed in Lancashire but by 2009, Oman will be offering all four years," confirms Professor Norman Burrow, principle and dean, Fire Safety Engineering College.
The course started in 2003 with four students and now has over 40, with 20% of them being from countries outside of Oman.
Heriot Watt University offers those wishing to further their educational studies or specialise in FM, a one year MSc/Diploma in Facilities Management, accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM).
The more recently launched Dubai Real Estate Institute (DREI) is an industry-founded learning community offering both a masters and executive training.
The executive training courses are available to working professionals looking to enhance their skill sets and advance their career.
The World Class Facility Management course is the first executive training course to be launched by the DREI and starts in January 2008.
"The executive training programme has a two-fold aim: to instil an understanding of the theory, principles and practice of facilities management and to show how facilities management should be performed to support the core business of client organisations, primarily building owners," explains Dr Mohamed Al Shehhi, managing director, DREI.
Breaking the barriers
Countries around the world face many of the same challenges when it comes to encouraging the younger generations that FM is a solid and enjoyable career choice.
But with the Middle East's FM sector still fighting a battle to be understood by developers and building owners and the majority of the management workforce coming from overseas, the need for Emirati's to be trained in FM is crucial if the market is to keep up with its growth.
"Marketing specialist education is like marketing any other specialist product. Titles and perceptions are crucial," says Burrow.
Year one: Certificate of Higher Education in Facilities Management
Year two: Diploma of Higher Education in Facilities Management
Year three: Bachelor Degree (equivalent to advanced diploma in Facilities Management in Oman)
Year four: BSc (Hons) Facilities Management
With many FMs originating from an engineering background and degree, Burrow claims this causes confusion over what a FM actually does. He rightly points out that FM is not just about engineering but about many other things like health and safety, cleaning, interiors and outsourcing.
"Lawyers have degrees in law, engineers have degrees in engineering - why shouldn't FM have its own identity?" he asks.
"The sector in not as well defined as others, so it's difficult to talk or listen about it in a coherent voice. I think this is one of the reasons why FM has not taken off as a profession by young people. It's not understood by teachers or parents which also doesn't help."
He says some companies who have in-house FMs call them chief engineers, giving potential recruits into the indsutry, a misunderstood perception of FM.
"The challenge is to simplify the concept of FM. It needs to be softened and made sexy.
"There's no reason why it shouldn't have status alongside other management professions."
Yates explains that Aldar as a whole is fully committed to Emiratisation, with 30% of the current workforce being Emirati's.
Although none of these are present with the FM department, Yates is keen for that to change.
"We have a number of initiatives on the go to help encourage the local community to consider FM as a career choice. Aldar has a scholarship programme and it also has an internship programme.
"We are working with Mouchel and UAE trainees will be seconded to the UK and placed in positions where they can be coached and mentored. The UK candidate will come here, I call it reverse secondment," explains Yates.
While it is an encouraging move by the government to force Emiratisation in some sectors, FM has not been considered. Yates claims that if the industry is not careful, it will be left behind and jeopardise the chance of attracting Emirati's into a role that is already unappealing to many.
So what else can be done? "Companies can offer to visit schools to give career and technical presentations. Anything that gets them (the FMs) into schools and colleges allows them to promote FM explicitly and implicitly," adds Burrow.
He says that everyone involved in the industry is responsible for raising the profile of FM amongst the younger, local community.
"We have got a long way to go but with everyone's support, we will raise the status of FM," he adds.
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