Recent Facilities Management Supervisor (Level 3) apprenticeship graduate, Richard Newman, gives us an overview of his time as an apprentice, plus his advice for the cohort following in his footsteps.
What made you want to do an apprenticeship?
Taking my current experience and formalising it into an actual qualification was very important to me for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, I'd gradually moved into the role over time without any formal training, learning by doing, and by taking the occasional course such as NEBOSH. Although I've now been in facilities for many years and have a great deal of experience, the apprenticeship helped reinforce what I already knew, and put it into a larger context beyond my specific working environment.
Secondly, it was about confidence. If you learn through doing and experience, rather than any official qualification, there is a tendency to feel that perhaps you secretly aren't 100% sure of what you're doing, or you should know better; a form of imposter syndrome if you will. The apprenticeship helped me build my confidence by increasing my knowledge and showing that in many areas my existing experience meant that I really did know what I was talking about!
Why facilities management?
It tied in directly to my day job as a Team Leader for Facilities and Client Support. More and more over the last few years the emphasis has been on facilities management as the company has expanded, so it made sense to get some proper academic grounding to reinforce what I was doing day to day. This would allow me to provide a more effective service with a greater understanding of FM.
Give us an overview of your role…
I’m the Facilities and Client Support Team Leader for two locations. My role is primarily to ensure we deliver a top-notch, efficient and effective service. That means ensuring my teams are motivated, trained, developed and provided with the resources they need to offer that level of service to both internal and external clients.
Beyond that, I’m also involved in projects such as office moves and have increased involvement in commodity areas such as environmental reporting, postage, ISO accreditation and people engagement.
What were the highlights of your apprenticeship?
There were three main highlights for me:
1. The sense of comradery in the group. As a multilocation firm you don’t often get to spend much actual time with your peers from other sites. The monthly training sessions were invaluable as it brought us together and allowed us to share knowledge and experiences in person. This filtered through to outside of the monthly lessons where we set up an intranet support page for each other, where we could share useful links or ideas, ask questions and offer support.
2. Being able to support other cohorts based on my experience. Many of the cohorts were relatively new to FM, so in certain areas, for example Health & Safety or P&L accounts, I was able to offer guidance and explain how things were done within the firm. This helped put things into context for them, while approaching it from a teaching perspective helped refresh the detail in my own mind.
3. The sense of achievement, not just at the end, but during each phase of the course. It had been a long time since I'd studied in this way, so getting back into that frame of mind, working hard and submitting each assignment instilled a real sense of accomplishment, all leading to the final exam phase where the hard work really paid off.
Do you think an apprenticeship gave you a better grasp of the profession and your role than going to university, for example, would have?
Absolutely. An apprenticeship gives you a practical context. A university course may give a ‘proper’, in-depth grasp of the theory: various bits of legislation, understanding P&L or project management, for example, but actually putting that theory into practice allows for a fuller understanding.
Completing a risk assessment, looking for examples of risks in your environment and working on ways to practically reduce them all make much more sense when there is an actual outcome to be achieved, and when you have practically applied your knowledge in the real world.
A P&L account may not make much sense at all until you're reviewing your own invoices and expenditure and seeing how it relates to your actual budget. You can only do this if you are learning in a working environment, and this is one of the great strengths of the apprenticeship model. The studying helps inform your practical work, and your practical work provides context for the study. Together they allow for a greater depth of understanding in the topics covered.
You're now mentoring the next cohort of apprentices. What advice will you give them to help them navigate their learning?
Decide what kind of study environment and approach works best for you as soon as you can.
Do you work best in a quiet corner of the office or at home? Would you prefer to study for a full day stretch, or would two or three shorter stretches suit you best? Do you prefer listening and watching tutorials or reading? What kind of attention span do you have, and what will affect your ability to knuckle down and concentrate? Studying at home sounds ideal, but are you easily tempted by the remote control, do you procrastinate and always find one more thing to do before hitting the assignment? Do you have kids running around where you're trying to work?
All these aspects need to be considered so you can decide on the most effective way to study. Once you've worked out the best place and timescales, stick to them rigorously. Don’t be tempted to shuffle your planned study time unless it's absolutely vital. Make it as important a part of your working week as any other job-related task. This gives you structure; a time and place to fully devote yourself to the course and keeps you on track. It's incredible how quickly the time will fly, and you'll always want to be on top of things and on schedule.
My second piece of advice is simply a reminder that other cohorts from the current course are there to talk to, and all of us who completed the course last year are there to lend an ear, offer advice and to be supportive. It's hard work, but incredibly fulfilling and worthwhile.
What's next for your professional development?
I'm looking forward to further developing my understanding of specific commodities, working in greater depth with suppliers, assisting in managing and running accounts. I was recently tasked with running an office relocation project which was a lot of work but was informative in the sense that it gave me a greater insight into the huge number of elements that need to work together above and beyond the facilities function. I found the process fascinating and look forward to being involved in more projects in the future.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
Well, barring a lottery win, or being asked to head up the facilities team in an exotic location, I'd hope to be looking after facilities projects, as the course has shown me the real satisfaction in seeing result of a lot of hard work. I'd also like to still be involved in the team leader aspect of a role. There's a great deal of pride in seeing a team you've worked with and nurtured develop into something greater. That’s another thing I gained on the course: it gives you a greater insight into your potential, and the potential of others, and for that alone it’s worthwhile.
Ready to embark on a career in facilities management? Take the first step: find out more about facilities management apprenticeships.