Tune in to FM at Harrods addresses the need for more young people in the FM industry

Drinks, nibbles, passionate speakers - the Facilities Management Association's Young Managers Forum - should have no problem tempting people into the industry, says Becca Wilson.

In the 12 months I have been involved in the FM industry, one topical area has caught my eye - the lack of interest in FM from young people.

This is not to say young people choose to ignore the profession, as I'm sure they don't.  They're just not aware of it, or if they are, their perceptions of the profession are somewhat hazy.

Tune in to FM

At the latest Tune in to FM seminar, run by FSI FM Solutions, which took place at Harrods in Knightsbridge, London, Rebecca Bradley - head of facilities at the London Stock Exchange - and her twin sister Victoria Bradley - change manager at ISS Coflex - gave an inspiring and passionate speech about the Facility Management Association's (FMA) Young Managers Forum (YMF).

The YMF was set up to promote FM as a professional career choice to young people.  Both Rebecca and Victoria are members of the YMF and are dedicated to raising awareness of FM.

"Rebecca was involved first but I thought the group was a great way of encouraging young people into the industry and allowing young people to network with like minded people.  I thought if I could help that process along, basically by having a big mouth, then I'd be happy to do so, " explains Victoria.

The FM role

Over the years, FM has evolved into a business critical role.  Managing businesses facilities is crucial to the reputation of a company and it's encouraging to hear that more and more businesses are now recognising FM in this way.

A few years ago, it was probably fair to say that FM was still in the realms of progression.  However, FM has moved on considerably and is now much more strategic.

"I'm sure it's all been said before but in this day and age, FM is even more critical than it ever has been," says Victoria.

"The role has changed from a hands-on, 'on the tools' role to a strategic business function.  I can't wait to see a chief facilities management officer sitting on the board alongside a chief executive officer and chief finance officer," she determinedly adds.

The twin's enthusiasm for the profession and the YMF is extremely infectious.  It's difficult to see why, once you've met them, people wouldn't want to get into the industry.

However, even though I am convinced they and the FMA will succeed in their mission to encourage more young people into the industry, a little help from everyone involved in FM would make a huge difference.

Because of a huge lack of understanding about the role from the outside world,  FM hasn't been promoted as a professional career choice and instead, has been landed with a dull and unexciting reputation.  It's going to take time and effort to rectify this.

To help encourage more and more young people into FM, it is important to educate them about what FM actually it/  If you read my leader comment this month, you will see that we, as an industry, have got a long way to go if companies like the BBC can't even explain the profession correctly.

Young Managers Forum

Rebecca and Victoria's presentation focused on what the YMF is about, what it has achieved, and what we can expect in the future.  One of its key roles is to promote the industry within schools, colleges and universities.   This is certainly a step in the right direction and one that will hopefully irradiate any confusion as to what FM actually is.

The forum also hosts networking events.  "I'd encourage any young person in the industry who reads the article and thinks 'I hate networking events' or hasn't ever been to a networking evening to come to ours just once," advised Victoria.  "I've been to some dry old networking evenings where you'd rather chew your leg off than talk to most people there but ours isn't like that.  Everyone's friendly and welcoming and the speakers only last for 20 minutes, after that it's drinks and nibbles - free of course."

The next evening is being billed as the summer party and is being held on 11 July aboard HMS Belfast, London.

Further discussions with Victoria revealed that the YMF believes young managers want the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) to move towards chartered status.  "If we want to be taken seriously up there alongside our chartered project manager and chartered surveyor colleagues, we believe that the BIFM should be moving towards this, or at least investing considerable resource into looking in to the issue and overtly reporting on the project," she says.

Other Speakers:

Peter Middup, publisher of PFM and FM Report, discussed FM and the media.

Wilton Farrelly, divisional managing director at Martin FM, discussed the experiences of the contractor delivery side, aspects of FM delivery and the future plans of H&J Martin.

Asea Zlaoui, technical systems and energy manager, and Gordon Vanderputt, PPM technical officer at Harrods, discussed the use of Concept at Harrods and how it has changed the engineering and building maintenance department.