Improving the future of work
IWFM believes that all work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment.
We therefore welcomed the publication in 2017 of Good Work, The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices which sets out a number of steps towards fair and decent work and contains several principles to address the challenges facing the UK labour market. IWFM contributed to the Review on a number of FM-related issues including flexible working, widening the apprenticeship scheme to other training opportunities, the National Living/Minimum Wage (NLW/NMW) and zero hours contracts.
We also echo the Review’s acknowledgement that we need to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health as this is vital both for individuals and for our economy. Better designed work can also make an important contribution to tackling the complex challenge of low productivity, potentially delivering a £20 billion uplift to the UK economy (according to the Stoddart Review).
The Taylor Review included several recommendations for the Government to take forward which are relevant to our profession:
Zero hours contracts
These should be maintained as they offer flexibility to people with different needs and priorities. However, Government should develop legislation that gives agency workers and those on zero hours contracts the right to request a fixed hours contract after being employed for a long period of time and require companies above a certain size to report on how many requests for fixed hours contracts they have received (and agreed to).
Low Pay Commission (LPC)
The LPC should have a wider remit to include looking at ways to improve the quality of work across all sectors. Specifically, it should be tasked with examining how a higher NMW rate might apply to non-guaranteed hours.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
This should be reformed so that it is explicitly a basic employment right, comparable to the NMW, for which all workers are eligible from day one regardless of income.
Government should consider making the funding generated by the Apprenticeship Levy available for high-quality, off-the-job training other than apprenticeships.
Technology & Productivity
The emphasis in the industrial strategy and sector deals on technology and innovation should be linked to driving productivity and enabling more rewarding working lives, especially in lower-paid and lower-skilled sectors.
Upskilling the labour market through lifelong learning will play an important role in dealing with the challenges of automation and Artificial Intelligence.
IWFM will continue to contribute to the debate on fair and secure employment and will feed into Government proposals to ensure that any future employment changes affecting the workplace and facilities management profession will take our members’ experience and insight into account.
Why T Levels are important for FM
T Levels are new two-year, Level 3 technical qualifications which will sit alongside A Levels and apprenticeships to offer young people genuine parity of choice between vocational and academic education.
They were part of the reforms put forward in 2016 by the Independent Panel on Technical Education to transform the UK’s poorly-performing technical education system, equipping students with the knowledge and skills that employers value and that are needed to progress to higher education.
Overseen by the Institute for Apprenticeships, the first three T Levels - in Construction, Digital, and Education and Childcare - will be introduced in selected schools and colleges from September 2020 with 22 further qualifications rolled out in following years. The Construction route comprises three pathways:
1) Design, Surveying and Planning: this is the most advanced and has been selected for delivery in 2020
2) Building Services Engineering (the pathway under which FM currently sits) and On Site Construction; these will follow for first delivery in 2021
All qualifications include a 45-60 day compulsory industry placement aimed at giving students the experience and wider skills they will need in the world of work. Further details on the introduction of T Levels can be found here.
The workplace and facilities management profession is rapidly evolving into a diverse, multi-faceted sector which is facing a major skills shortage. The Open University 2018 Business Barometer put the direct cost of the UK skills shortages at £6.3 billion a year. In our Facilities Management 2018 Business Confidence Monitor, 27% of respondents cited the shortage of skilled staff as the factor most likely to affect the success of their business this year.
This skills gap has been exacerbated in large part by the lack of attention and investment given to technical and professional education over recent years. T Levels, alongside the Apprenticeship Levy, if implemented correctly, could be an important part of the solution, giving young people from all backgrounds a high-quality route to gaining the knowledge and technical skills they and business need to succeed, thereby creating a more successful economy and raising the UK’s productivity.
Creating the FMs of the future
Apprenticeships are a key part of the solution to the skills gap which is increasingly impacting the workplace and facilities management profession, including at senior levels.
We are long-time advocates of the opportunities that employment-based education can offer and its vital role, alongside other training and development methods, in supporting excellence and improving productivity in the workplace. New Trailblazer apprenticeships were introduced in England in 2013, putting employers at their centre to ensure that they provide learners with the skills and knowledge needed by industry now and in the future.
IWFM were delighted to provide our expertise and commitment to these new pathways, working with employers and academic institutions to create the standards, qualifications and assessments which underpin the Facilities Management apprenticeships (see link below). We have supported the development of three apprenticeship standards to date, with a fourth being near completion.
The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017 with the aim of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020. Under the scheme all employers with an annual salary bill of over £3 million pay 0.5% of their salary total into a central fund (regardless of whether they employ apprentices) which is open to any business that wants to offer in-work training.
The expectation was that the levy would help close the industry’s skills gap by providing guaranteed investment to develop the necessary skills, whilst also being a useful tool to promote social mobility and address the country’s productivity challenge. However, the number of new apprenticeship starts is 15% down on pre-levy figures with employers expressing confusion and frustration over the restrictions and inflexibility of the system.
Some critics of the levy see it as little more than an extra tax and levy paying businesses are often not drawing down the money set aside in their digital accounts. Many SMEs, who do not contribute to the levy and have their apprenticeships subsidised, have called the system complicated, poorly organised and not appropriate for their training needs. Nonetheless, the Department for Education maintains the scheme is succeeding in increasing the number of quality and higher-level placements.
Whilst supporting the principles of the apprenticeships, IWFM is continuing to engage with Government to ensure the implementation achieves its potential. As indicated in our Position Paper on the levy (see link below), we have serious concerns that the financial and bureaucratic failings of the Apprenticeship Levy will turn businesses away from investing in the skills the sector needs. In particular, we are seeking reform in two key areas: ensuring sufficient funding bands are available for the FM Apprenticeship Standards and increasing flexibility to use the levy funds on a wider range of training interventions.