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Focus on Skills: Why apprenticeships are the future for business

The need for specific employable skills in the workplace is essential. Attracting and acquiring new talent to all industries is a competitive field, with more students leaving school and attending university than ever before.

However, for growing businesses, the benefits of apprentices are becoming apparent. The ability to train your staff and integrate them into a working culture has its obvious advantages. But the reasons for creating on-the-job training courses for new talent are increasing every day. Here we look at how businesses are benefiting from apprentices, and how they can grow in the future.

Growing skills and businesses

Apprenticeships are one of the best opportunities for young people to learn valuable workplace-related skills. Where once the idea of apprenticeships was saturated by jobs in sectors such as engineering, construction, and care, a growing number of courses now compete with higher-level education and degree level careers.

The Government introduced an apprenticeships levy in 2017, forcing businesses with payrolls of over £3 million to reserve five per cent of wage costs for training in the workplace. The levy was expected to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK by 2020. It is essential for large businesses to generate high skilled employees from apprenticeships.

This is demonstrated by the growth of high-level apprenticeships over the past five years. A level seven apprenticeship is considered equivalent to a post-graduate course. A 2019 report found that only 30 people enrolled at this level in 2015, compared to 4,500 people in 2017 when the levy was introduced.

The growing number of high-level apprenticeships is reflected in the variety of roles available to those who want to learn in a workplace. Some examples include apprenticeships in aerospace engineering with the MOD, digital marketing, and as a police constable. UCAS advertises apprenticeships that pay £30,000 a year, over 25 per cent more than the average graduate salary in the UK.

A day in the life

Apprenticeships are not just an alternative to further or even higher education. Courses often contain useful skills that act as introductory workshop into specific sectors.

Grace started an apprenticeship in digital marketing in July 2019 with Mobile Mini, a storage container provider and rental service. She explains why an apprenticeship course appealed to her: “I chose to do this rather than going to university because I wanted to continue in education at the same time as learning on the job.”

For Grace, being able to work while earning had obvious advantages. But most importantly, she believes that it will benefit her career in the long run. She continued: “An apprenticeship really prepares you for the world of work, as you are not only continuing education, you are also gaining so much valuable experience of a real workplace.”

This reflects the growing need for sector-specific skills over generalised, particularly in digital and high skilled roles. For businesses, the prospect of moulding the ideal worker through work and education creates the perfect employee, ingrained within the culture of the company.

Beyond 2020

While apprenticeships are becoming increasingly prevalent in workplaces, the future will depend on them. The World Economic Forum noted that changing technology and business practices will mean that up to 42 per cent of skill requirements will change by 2022. Consequently, reskilling is becoming not only necessary but difficult to do on a large scale as well.

The turnover of essential skills means that they can only be learnt in the workplace, and often, if practical skills are taught in higher education, there is an expectation that they will be redundant by the time a student enters the workplace.

Only through apprenticeships can a business move with the era of accelerated and digital innovation. With young people engrained in a culture of digitisation, they will adapt to changing scenarios and technology. Businesses will compete for talent from a pool of young apprentices. As the number of apprentices increases, opportunities must adapt to meet the needs of an intelligent workforce, where education occurs throughout their working lives.

As apprenticeships become more common and attractive for both students and businesses, are we likely to see a shift in post-school education? With the cost of university becoming an unattractive prospect for young people, will apprenticeship schemes become the best way to prepare people for a working future? Only time will tell, but he benefits are evident.

iHASCO offers free training to all key workers across the UK

Bracknell based eLearning provider, iHASCO, have announced that all key workers across the UK can obtain free access to their Mental Health Awareness and Infection Prevention & Control training programmes.

The announcement was made shortly after they were listed on the Crown Commercial Service’s COVID-19 Catalogue of supplier offers.

Mental health and wellbeing has long been high up on the agenda for employers, but now, it’s more important than ever before. The coronavirus pandemic could have a “profound” effect on people’s mental health – now and in the future, say psychiatrists and psychologists who are calling for urgent research.

It’s the same with Infection Prevention and Control training; incredibly important in day-to-day life but with the recent Coronavirus pandemic affecting tens of thousands in the UK alone, it’s crucial that key workers are given high-quality training to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.

iHASCO’s Mental Health Awareness Course is IOSH approved and recently won the THS Health & Safety Awards. Their Infection Prevention & Control training has been recently updated and is currently in the IOSH approval process.

They also offer 2 variations of the courses listed above that have been specifically designed for the care sector.

“We can’t thank our key workers enough for the sacrifices they are making everyday, but if our training can help those who are struggling with mental ill-health or even contributes to stopping the spread of COVID-19, then we’ve made a genuine difference” says Alex Morris, Director at iHASCO.

If you’re a key worker or you’re an employer of key workers, get in touch with iHASCO today and they can get your account set up, free of charge.

Improve your expertise with our online courses!

Why not use the extra downtime created by lockdown to learn new skills and improve existing ones with our newly available and unlimited annual courses?

These are specially-curated online courses designed to help you and your team improve expertise and learn new things.

The Management, Leadership & Business Operations online learning bundle provides you with over 50 courses, which cover all areas of both professional and personal development:

  • Costs, Volumes and Profits Certification
  • Agenda Setting Certification
  • Health and Safety in the Workplace (UK) Certification
  • GDPR in The Workplace Certification
  • Project Management Foundation (Small Projects) Certification
  • Project Preparation Certification
  • Making Meetings Matter Certification
  • Marketing Certification Level 2
  • Managing Emotions at Work Certification
  • Managing Your Workload Certification
  • UK Employment Law Certification
  • Workplace Monitoring and Data Protection Certification

And many more!

Find out more and purchase your ticket online here.

Additionally, there are a variety of bundles available on all spectrums;

  • Personal & Professional Development
  • Healthcare
  • Sports & Personal Development
  • Human Resources
  • Customer Services
  • Health & Safety
  • Education & Social Care Skills
  • Sales & Marketing
  • IT & Personal Development

Book your courses today and come out of this stronger and more skilled!

5 Minutes With… Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst, SPIE UK

In the latest instalment of our FM industry interview series, we sat down with Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst at SPIE UK to talk about how the industry can encourage more women to move into STEM-based careers as International Women’s Day (March 8th) approaches…

Tell us about your current role.

Environment and Energy Data Analyst. I help advise businesses on how they need to adapt to adhere to new environmental and energy regulations. By monitoring clientsenergy use and assessing their buildings, I can advise them on how to reduce their energy consumption, specifically when assisting them with the completion of their ESOS reports.

How can we encourage more women into STEM careers?

Accessibility is a huge problem. We need to make it as easy as possible for women to follow a STEM career path and promote the opportunities available to women at a young age. Although engineering is known for being maledominated, an effort should be made to integrate women amongst the male cohort. This helps to stop issues that may arise due to segregation while enabling different ideas to be shared.

What’s your advice to those looking into following a career in engineering?

I suggest joining a professional body and attending relevant events. Not only does this give you the opportunity to learn from others but helps you to start having conversations with the right people in the industry who might end up being a mentor further down the line.  

With the percentage of women in the industry dropping off over time, how can the sector retain more females

Female networks, such as SPIEs SoSPIE Ladies network has inspired me to remain in engineering as you can seek council from others in a similar situation to yourself.  

How we can entice young talent into the FM industry?

By Chris Townsend, HR Director, ABM UK

In the facilities management industry, the UK is suffering from a general skills shortage. Young people are typically not considering this industry as a career path creating a skills gap.

Therefore, it is right that we look to apprenticeships as a possible solution to this problem and highlight the important role they play in bridging this gap.

Open career opportunities that call for individuals with engineering skills far outnumber the supply of applicants. The facilities management industry needs people who are open to related careers, to be aware of all the opportunities that this industry is offering them. 

Whether these people are students coming from college, after university or later on in their lives, apprenticeships provide a secure route to upskilling and career progression.

At ABM UK, there are apprenticeship programmes dedicated to security, plumbing, cleaning, gas and engineering. These apprenticeships enable people to develop new skills as well as giving people a great start to working life. In all, there are 10 different courses and our apprentices not only earn while they learn, but have the option to work in a variety of disciplines within facilities services, management, which goes up to degree level and engineering. 

Education and awareness are the equivalent to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance when looking at diversity and the skills gap. By engaging children that are still early in their education we are introducing them to the possibilities of the facilities management industry, this is filling the pipeline of future apprentices. We are also ensuring there is a diversity of backgrounds in our people that will make our business and profession continue successfully. 

At ABM UK we want a pipeline of talented young people who aspire to have a career in facilities management. The individuals in this pipeline will be excited by its potential and would not accept a role in this industry as a back-up if their other career plans didn’t quite work out. We want to make apprenticeships an active career choice, and not a back-up plan. 

So what are we doing to make this happen? We are showing that the industry is about more than oily rags and blue overalls.

Firstly, we invested heavily in setting up our own training centre to ensure apprenticeships and training are at the heart of our business.

In 2018, ABM UK piloted the first ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) which aims to tackle the perceptions of engineering and facilities management amongst secondary school aged children and their parents. The course of 10 modules, including experiments in conduction, magnets and motors, gives the students an insight into the world of facilities management and apprenticeships. Something they may have never heard of before. When these children leave school, they will be better informed of their choices and may well consider an apprenticeship in this field, and we’re very proud of the extensive range we offer.

And, we’re using our current apprentices as role models and ambassadors. It’s important that young children see people that they can relate to doing really well in these areas, acting as motivation for them to continue to be engaged in the programme.

Take ABM UK former apprentice, Marissa Francis as an example, and an inspiration. She chose the university route, but soon realised it wasn’t for her and chose a different direction – an apprenticeship.

Despite losing her mum and being responsible for bringing up her four-year-old daughter single-handedly, she graduated from ABM UK’s apprenticeship scheme and is now a qualified expert in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 

We are so proud of everything she has achieved and we’re all delighted that she was named ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2017 at the industry’s Heating and Ventilation News Awards.

Alongside the J.E.E.P initiative, as part of our grass roots work, we conducted a piece of research[1] which looked at the perceptions of apprenticeships in this industry amongst 2,000 parents and 2,000 young people aged 11 – 15. A lot of what we found illustrated the perception change work that needs to be done – for example, we found that over a third of parents don’t know what an apprenticeship is. Statistics like this need to be changed. The research also found that a third[2] of parents see apprenticeships as a last resort for young people who fail exams.

The research also found the top reasons that parents were not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship. Almost half thought apprenticeships were poorly paid (43%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37%), and a perception that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17%). Those with experience or working in apprenticeships know that this is not the case. In reality, recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt. 

Initiatives like the J.E.E.P show students at a young age what they are capable of academically. Sometimes we excel at physical tasks rather than sitting in a lecture hall. Showing students the benefits of an apprenticeship could make a massive difference to their life and career path.

Following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, businesses are coming together no matter what industry, towards the same goal which is to educate the youth through apprenticeships. There is no question that this means the future is looking bright for apprenticeships in the UK, however, it is clear from the research ABM UK conducted that the perceptions around apprenticeships still need to change.

[1] Commissioned by ABM UK and conducted by Censuswide the research comprises 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 children aged 11 to 16 in April 2018. 

[2] 36%

GUEST BLOG: Facilities Management firms need to streamline efficiencies ahead of Brexit

By Drey Francis, Director at Engage Technology Partners

While the Brexit ‘deal’ remains up in the air and the uncertainty continues for UK businesses, employers in the Facilities Management field are understandably nervous.

As an arena that has undoubtedly been heavily reliant on European talent to fill demand in a skills short environment, the potential to have an increasingly limited pool of staff to tap into is certainly a concern.

In fact, our recent pay data revealed that the Brexit vote has had a direct impact on hourly rates as businesses look to retain staff. According to the statistics, since the vote to leave the Bloc in 2016, hourly pay for skills-short roles has increased, with maintenance positions in particular noting an uptick in money. Handymen and mechanical maintenance professionals reported the greatest increase in the three years since the vote at 13% and 10% respectively, while electricians saw a 5% rise in hourly rates.

Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach.

Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in Spring 2019.

So where can FM businesses streamline activity to better weather the storm that lies ahead?

Identify the right areas to improve

There’s long been a trend across the industry to limit supplier margins in order to reduce expenditure – a tactic that many will likely turn to as times get tough. However, the true results of this approach aren’t as impactful as you might perhaps be led to believe, and I would argue that this isn’t a sustainable strategy in a talent short market.

Margins have long been on a downward trajectory in recruitment, but when you consider that you ‘get what you pay for’, is this really the right tactic? Yes, identifying where there are inconsistencies in mark-ups will be a beneficial cost-cutting exercise, but only if done while also looking at the wider picture.

In my view, the greatest area of improvement across Facilities Management lies in the often lengthy and quite frankly, inefficient, administrative, recording and resourcing processes. Too often there is a lack of automation and data sharing that is causing significant ‘wastage’ in FM operations.

For example, compliance checks can often be duplicated as information is not stored in one centralised location. Resourcing mangers can also face budget overruns due to inefficient record keeping, with off-PSL agencies used to fill last minute demands when in fact the required staff could be found in other areas of the business. And with many recording tools often being used separate to payroll systems, the entire resourcing management process can become overly complex and the chance of errors occurring is increased.

Don’t forget the candidate experience

Perhaps more importantly, without a truly joined up approach, many candidates and employees are facing an experience that perhaps doesn’t resonate well with their expectations. With budgets pushed lower, the risk for people to be treated as commodities rather than the valued individuals that they are is increased.

And, of course, the limitations of some administrative processes can see staff paid late or not enough due to timesheet or filing errors. The result is a disgruntled workforce that is less engaged with your business and subsequently, more likely to steer clear of your business in the future. A less than ideal situation given that automating admin processes can often be relatively simple to implement.

And herein lies the biggest consideration for FM businesses: how much is it costing you to find out how much it costs? With a disjointed administrative process, it is arguably costing decision makers to find out where there are budget overruns and where savings can be made. All in all, money is being spent to look at how money can be saved, before any concrete action is taken.

But that doesn’t have to be the case – often it is the small efficiencies that can have the greatest impact.

For FM businesses, now really is the time to look at developing a joined-up approach to resource management before the chaos of Brexit truly hits home.

FM sector increases hourly pay for skills-short roles as Brexit looms

Facilities management firms are turning to financial incentives to lure top contract talent as the Brexit vote drives EU citizens out of the UK, according to new data.

Engage Technology Partners says its pay data has revealed that since the vote to leave the Bloc in 2016, hourly pay for skills-short roles has increased, with maintenance positions in particular noting an uptick in money.

Handymen and mechanical maintenance professionals reported the greatest increase in the three years since the vote at 13% and 10% respectively, while electricians saw a 5% rise in hourly rates.

This data has been revealed amid news from the CIPD that talent shortages are already being felt ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU next year. According to its latest Labour Market Outlook report, a third of employers of EU citizens have reported that the Brexit decision has led to an exodus of these professionals from their UK base.

Drey Francis, Director at Engage, said: “For Facilities management firms, maintaining reliable access to a team of maintenance professionals was already an issue before the Brexit vote. Since the decision was made to exit the EU, this issue has deteriorated further, with many of the FM firms we have a relationship with reporting that availability of these professionals is one of their biggest concerns going in to 2019.

“Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in Spring 2019. For example, where FM businesses have widespread operations, there are often resources that can be utilised in other locations, but a lack of visibility of this information is preventing hiring managers from tapping into these staffing pools.”