Training and Development
The FM industry needs to work on development, says Dr Hayan Sayed
The past few decades have seen rapid growth in all sectors in the Middle East, with the changing urban infrastructure making the region one of the most dynamic and futuristic in the world.
The skylines of these modern cities have changed to include high rise buildings, giant shopping malls, modern hospitals, airports, and communities, free zones, industrial plants and educational facilities.
Greedy in energy consumption, these properties also represent large investments requiring proper management of their life cycle to optimise their life spans. A multifaceted combination of competencies is required to carry out the operation and maintenance of the complex systems that make up these buildings.
Facilities management is the profession required to manage these buildings; the profession provides the technical complexity and the expertise needed to manage such modern properties.
Unlike other industries, FM is a new science and industry. It is only in the past 20 or 30 years that we started having a structured approach to manage facilities with the creation of institutions like the US-based International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) or the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM).
According to IFMA, FM is a profession that “encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, processes and technology”.
To deliver these complex services, the industry employs various staff profiles; these include: operating staff, which ranges from technical (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning [HVAC], electrical, plumbing, civil repairs, audio visual and electronics) to soft services (cleaning, security, landscaping, reception, help desk, call centre operators); support staff such as administrators, coordinators, IT and technology, quality control, HSE; managerial staff including team leaders, supervisors, engineers, junior managers, project/facilities managers; senior management who deal with operations, finance, human resources, procurement, as well as IT and technology.
Most of the professionals available in the market have basic technical skills holding diplomas or bachelor degrees allowing them to work in fields like construction or consultancy. However many of them do not have required skills for the complexity of FM industry. This includes expatriates from Arab countries, the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia.
This creates the issues of controlling the level of skills matching with the industry requirements, and mobility of the staff within the region, that is, moving to other countries or returning back to their original countries challenging the possibility of maintaining industry skills in the region.
When recruiting new staff, even if they have a technical background (diplomas or engineers) or other backgrounds (soft services and support), they are rarely prepared to handle FM operations as basic academic institutions are often not focused on the management of built environment.
The target of holistic training in FM should be to support the industry by providing skills and competencies to people who are working or willing to work in this industry.
A 360-degree FM training curriculum focused on the job profiles of the staff needs to be developed.
The FM curriculum should include technical / professional skills; leadership skills and behavioural and cultural sensitisation. Operations-related trainings that are specific to the FM industry such as computer aided FM (CAFM), managing planned preventive maintenance (PPMs), issuing work orders are mandatory for operations and support staff for excellent contract execution.
Depending on the profile of the staff, courses for different types of FM staff are required. The profiles include operational staff, supervisory staff and support staff; and facility managers and other managers.
For example, for the operational staff such as MEP & HVAC technicians on project site, practical training in a workshop simulating the live-environment is beneficial. For support staff, along with basic technical trainings, management and communication skills with role plays needs to be included.
Taking into consideration these facts, the urgency of providing training for people working in FM cannot be ignored. It is important to train the local people who come from Gulf countries, to enhance the skills of those joining the industry to provide complementary trainings that will integrate their basic skills into the complexity of this industry.
About the author
Dr Hayan Sayed is director of the Centre of Excellence, EFS Facilities Services