• Minnie Eve
  • 28 August 2013

FM - the career of choice

With the recent flurry of exam results I found myself reminiscent of my old school days, which I personally found troublesome and trying – exams, and especially the results, being the angst-ridden icing on that particular cake. Having attended a very good Cambridge school, where this year 20 students achieved A* grades in all of their GCSEs, and three-quarters of students achieved nine or more A* or A grades, it is easy to see why I labelled myself the ‘scum’ of that school. 15 years on from my GCSEs and some life experience later, I see that my ten A-C grades were not perhaps the world tragedy that I once thought. I’ve also let go of the vindictive streak that wanted to forever stick two fingers up at the five teachers who predicted me D grades; it was only by sheer spite and bloody-mindedness that they were turned into five B grades!

Many of my counterparts went on to Oxford or Cambridge, and among the perfectly turned out high achievers, are now doctors, lawyers, gifted musicians and talented financial service professionals. So what is a high achiever? Well, it’s sort of the complete opposite of me. I am more of what you would call (in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ terms) all odd socks and eczema. High achievers do what is required well and go beyond that point, they tend to be well-organised, neat and manage their time well. They are well-behaved and participate enthusiastically in a classroom environment. They don’t copy other people’s homework or hand in textiles projects obviously completed by their proficient seamstress mum. Nor do they pierce their ears six times just because the school says you are only allowed one earring in each ear.

This year, Workplace Law is sponsoring the Achiever of the Year Award at the SHP IOSH Awards. Those nominated and shortlisted are highly credible leaders, professional individuals who have gone well beyond the call of duty in their role. The Awards are a platform from which to celebrate the range of good health and safety practice achieved in different industries. Health and safety is of course a huge and integral part of the facilities management profession, but by their own admission so many FMs fall into this career path, rather than choose it from the outset. When will FM be a career of choice? The Awards are testament to the fact that high achievers are everywhere in the industry, so how can FM shake the dinosaur tainted tag it wears? The Profiles 2011 Salary and Demographics Report, based on a survey of 4,353 facility professionals from 45 countries around the world, put the average age of a facilities manager at 49 - despite reports that more young people are entering the career path. It is a career that is well paid and boasts well educated professionals.

Having been channelled into A levels and university myself (it was what you did) and never once realising or even contemplating that perhaps I could do anything else, dropping out was probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It turned out to be one of the best. I was fortunate enough to wander haphazardly into a two-week temporary job that became permanent, whereupon I gained a year of invaluable experience that set me on my way. The rest, as they say, is history. With a stark rise in unemployment among young people, I doubt the scenario is one easily replicated in the current jobs market. My older brother, the antithesis of me and the eternal academic, gained a degree, a masters and then a PhD. Getting a job after all those years of studying was not easy and he floundered with unemployment and to his distaste, jobseekers allowance. The job centre is not somewhere designed for a Dr of socio-palaeontology (or to the likes of me and the job centre employees, ‘the fossil guy’).  Both these illustrations are why I think that the FM sector’s pledge to uphold 10,000 apprenticeships and 11,000 work inspiration places is, to say the least, a good one. The goal being to unite the FM industry at the same time as creating new opportunities for young people.

As part of the British Institute of Facilities Management’s (BIFM) strategy to develop facilities and workplace management careers, on 4 July this year, its CEO, Gareth Tancred, signed a Partnership Agreement with the Department of Work and Pensions. Aiming to help individuals enter, re-enter or progress in FM, and ensuring equality of access and opportunity for people from diverse backgrounds, this agreement is just one way to reinforce the importance of supporting young people to build their career prospects. It’s both hard to get a job if you are qualified with no experience, and just as hard if you are experienced with little qualification after all. Attracting young, fresh blood to FM is the only way to increase the current demographic anomalies.

High achiever or not, I think it would be fair to say that for those of us  whose GCSE and A Level results are filed in the memory bank along with their love for Wackaday and The Mysterious Cities of Gold (or perhaps even earlier gems!), they are not often thought about. Good or bad, they have little bearing on our everyday lives. My only advice would be to consider what career path you wish to embark on (preferably before you go to university to do a course you don’t want to do). How about a career in FM?