How talent is sought & developed in FM industry

fmME touches base with the region’s fm institutions to discover how talent is sought and developed

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management, FM, Fm industry, Industry

Skills4Stem, Sarah Davis, CEO

Catering to the science technology, engineering, maths and facilities management sectors, Skills4Stem is a skills and succession planning consultancy that offers a variety of training programmes designed for the built environment. Based in the UK, the company offers its courses in a number of places across the globe, the Middle East region being one of its most active markets.

A core part of Skills4Stem’s programme involves the utilisation of technology, particularly with products designed around ‘gamification’, a concept that applies game mechanics and game design techniques to collect, analyse and map skills before and after training.

The company’s portfolio includes a range of ‘fast learning’ modules specific for the FM and construction sectors, which utilises interactive animation and video. Skills4Stem also offers interactive eBook learning modules, which has proven to be more accessible for certain clientele on the go, as well as compliance eLearning programmes.

Currently, the training consultancy is designing a learning platform for businesses that will incorporate peer-2-peer knowledge sharing, alongside online learning modules, which will help encourage the development of ‘social learning’.

“Everyone will have access to workplace specific social learning areas for organic growth and knowledge sharing and ‘fast learning’ approaches to smart skills, enabling quick bitesize chunks of mobile learning, as people go about their work,” explains Sarah Davis, CEO at Skills4Stem.

“In a global marketplace, employees are not always able to come together to learn in a classroom, online learning will become more mainstream and it will be enhanced with Classroom learning when work patterns permit.”

In the wake of smart city development, Davis sees an increasing need for FM providers to prepare their respective teams for smart technologies. She believes that basic software coding skills will likely become a requirement within an FM team, while training of basic software diagnostics will be instrumental in caring for smart devices within buildings.

Client facing FM teams will also benefit from basic cross software platform knowledge, in addition to their communication and language skills. Such personnel would benefit from being able to diagnose basic smart faults, but more importantly, would be then capable of identifying opportunities for further smart technology implementation.

Skills4Stem has already introduced elements into its existing gamification products, but has also begun to devise a brand new suite of programmes aimed at tackling smart city development. These include introductions of mechanical and electrical engineering, which also covers Building Information Modelling (BIM), as well as courses on diagnosing faults within building management software.

When asked on how advanced could the FM market become within the next decade, Davis points out that a number of cutting-edge technologies are already becoming commonplace. These include 3D printing, pre-fabricated modular buildings, smart sensors for ventilations, as well as the use of drones and bots.

She also believes that high-risk construction roles may one day depend on artificial intelligence with driverless vehicles, which in turn will need to be managed by the facilities management staff.

“I would also like to think FM teams could lead some of the change and innovation by collaborating with the design and build teams, embracing new opportunities for growth and being brought in early to the process,” explains Davis.

“FM teams will become system and solution integrators with expert problem solving knowledge. These changes could give FM businesses an opportunity to become more visible as a profession, be seen as exciting and challenging careers of choice.”

Heriot-Watt University, Dr. Hagir Hakim, director of Studies for the Construction Management and Surveying programes

Since launching its master’s degree in Facilities Management almost a decade ago, the faculty at Heriot-Watt University’s (HWU) Dubai campus have seen the course’s popularity continue to surge with each passing year.

With current enrolment numbers surpassing 50 students, hailing from across the GCC, as well as the recent introduction of a PhD programme in Facilities management, HWU is doing its part in helping shape the region’s FM market.

“We are proud to see the influence the program and the research we produce is having on the market, effects we can see as a result of our strong links with the FM industry, as well as the growing enrolment numbers,” comments Dr. Hagir Hakim, director of Studies for the Construction Management and Surveying Programes.

In terms of collating talent, the UAE remains ahead of the rest of the region, a result of the country’s early recognition of the FM sector. It is closely followed by fellow GCC member countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have equally invested resources towards attracting and retaining employees with the right skillsets. Dr. Hakim is quick to point out however, that “despite the sector now transitioning into a more mature phase, there is currently a shortage of specialised and trained facility management graduates.”

The director went on to discuss other changes in the market including changing attitudes with both building developers and owners, who have become increasingly more concerned with asset maintenance and longevity.

Technology continues to impact the market greatly, particularly as nations such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia push their respective smart city agendas.

“Technology is a very important aspect of facility management and the most successful FM tends to be those that utilise the latest technologies,” asserts Dr. Hakim.

“Smart cities cannot happen without infrastructure and buildings, both of which require knowledge on the part of the facility manager,” she added.

The topic of sustainability is also quickly gaining more and more momentum as building owners look to incorporate energy saving practices into their buildings. This in turn has spiked demand for skills related to energy management.

“All these issues combined are dealt with under the theme of strategic facility management where we now appreciate the role of the facilities management at the strategic level and not only at the operational levels of a business,” explains Dr. Hakim.

When pressed on the how she believes the market will continue to evolve over the next few years, the director asserts that the topic of skill shortage, as well as the development of FM professionalism, will need to be addressed by the industry.

Furthermore, the discussion of facilities management and its respective services needs to be introduced right from the inception of a project life cycle, in order to deliver “an integrated approach towards the delivery of the assets”.

“At Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus we deliver the FM program in conjunction with a suite of other built environment programs, focusing on the business case for development to design and construction, all the way through to the management of an operational facility,” comments Dr. Hakim.

“It is our belief that the role of facilities management has to span all of these phases.”

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