ABM UK launches programme to tackle skills gap in facilities management and engineering

Article from fmj.co.uk – posted by Sarah OBeirne

Facilities management services provider, ABM UK, has launched a pilot programme and media campaign to the younger generation in a bid to change perceptions that facilities management and engineering is about oily rags, overalls and ‘no prospects, when in fact it offers a pathway that promises no university debt and has fantastic earning potential.  

At the launch of its first-ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) at its employee training centre in Greenford, Middlesex. ABM UK welcomed 36 West London school children. Kate Bellingham in her role as an advocate of the campaign, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ambassador and former Tomorrow’s World presenter spoke to children and their parents about the unique opportunity the initiative offers.  

The move recognises that despite government initiatives like The Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of T levels, businesses have a responsibility to safeguard the future, too.  

The Programme’s vision originated from ABM UK’s Group Managing Director, Andy Donnell, who started his career as an apprentice electrician when he was 16-years-old. Donnell successfully worked his way up the career ladder to oversee the acquisition of Westway Services (now ABM UK) by American services giant, ABM, and now holds the chief role at the company. 

Commenting, Donnell said: “This industry has an image problem that we need to change. People either don’t know about the opportunities that facilities management and engineering offer or they think it’s about oily rags and no prospects. This couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, these technical roles are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying… and they have no debt! 

 “As an industry, we have a responsibility to start attracting fresh, young talent, and we believe that the J.E.E.P is a fantastic first step towards doing that. But it can’t be a flash in the pan: making the industry appeal to the next generation of talent is a monumental challenge, and changes won’t happen overnight, which is why we see this as a long-term, industry-wide campaign.” 

ABM UK’s J.E.E.P launched just weeks after the UK Government officially announced its landmark campaign, the Year of Engineering, which recognises the significant impact the skills shortage is having on the UK’s engineering industry’s productivity and growth. The campaign is pledging to work with industry partners to offer a million direct and inspiring experiences of engineering to young people throughout 2018. 

Supported by a team of educational experts, ABM UK has developed an immersive syllabus, which will be delivered to 36 Year Seven children from three London Borough of Ealing secondary schools: Northolt High School, Brentside High School, and Featherstone High School.   

Running from January to July 2018, the pilot programme will engage pupils in engineering and facilities management with interactive sessions, and educate them that careers in these sectors are full of opportunities and earning potential. Topics covered will include electrics, cooling and sustainability, while field trips to London’s Heathrow Airport and Transport for London’s train maintenance facility will explain how engineering plays out in a career setting. 

At the end of the programme the children will be awarded a certified qualification from industry body, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), which will work as a credit towards an apprenticeship or further course should they decide to pursue a career in the industry when they leave school.  

Linda Hausmanis, Chief Executive of the BIFM, commented: “The BIFM is absolutely delighted to work alongside ABM UK on this initiative. For many years the demographic time bomb facing FM has been much lauded and finding ways to encourage young people into FM as a career of choice has been a long-held ambition of the Institute.  I wish the 36 young people every success with the programme and, who knows, one day one of them may be heralded as the “FM Newcomer of the Year” like Conrad Dinsmore was at the BIFM Awards 2017.” 

ABM UK has already collaborated with generous suppliers and clients who see the value in taking action, and the company will be looking at competitors for their involvement as the initiative develops. Following the pilot, ABM UK aims to take the J.E.E.P on tour in a bespoke mobile hub – a state-of-the-art double-decker bus that will take the excitement and opportunity of engineering and facilities management to children across the country, in their own environments.