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Making the most of a dedicated training facility

13 February 2017

ABM’s dedicated training facility is providing benefits to staff at all stages of their career, PFM discovered during a recent visit.

There are few within the FM sector that consider it will be able to recruit from a sufficient number of people with the many and varied skills required to successfully run facilities of all shapes and sizes unless action is taken to resolve the situation.

In fact, a growing number of people are expressing considerable concern that the skills gap has increased in recent years and shows little sign of reducing.

Although recent efforts to establish Trailblazer apprenticeship schemes are designed to address this, it will be some time before the industry is able to confirm the effectiveness of these and other initiatives.

The wide-ranging scope of FM provides further challenges within the skills discussion, adding yet more complexity to the debate.

Although industry bodies including RICS, BIFM, CIBSE and the BESA are continuing their efforts to raise standards, most FMs believe there is still much work to do to reach the level required.

Bearing the above in mind, it makes considerable sense for companies to invest in training facilities for their staff.

While some see this as a cost, others regard it as an essential means to ensure that their workforce has sufficient skills and allow them to gain further qualifications, with the implication that these will continue to deliver benefits for the business.

Following the opening of its dedicated training facility in Greenford, Middlesex, ABM UK can be seen to be among those that regard the provision of a learning environment for staff as a justifiable and worthwhile investment.

In addition to providing the opportunity for employees to engage in a wide range of training exercises for HVAC equipment, the company also delivers regular workshops for both new and long-term members of staff in all aspects of its business.

Many of ABM’s staff were previously employed by Westway, which created the training centre before becoming part of ABM at the end of 2015.

Prior to its conversion into a training centre the facility was previously used for warehousing and office space by the company.

Gordon Massey with students at the ABM training centre

With the number of employees now exceeding 5,500, there is considerable demand for training and instruction that looks set to increase as ABM continues to expand its UK operations.

Electrical compliance manager and training instructor Gordon Massey, who was one of those heavily involved in establishing the Greenford facility, provided PFM with an overview of the breadth of courses now delivered on a regular basis:

“Once the main building work was complete, I was one of those involved in getting the centre ready for use,” he explains.

In addition to setting up courses, Mr Massey also spent many hours painting and decorating before it received the first course attendees.

“It’s now available to all staff, starting with induction courses for all new employees to learn about the business and its identity,” he says.

“We provide such a wide range of hard and soft services, it’s important for all new people to learn about all areas of the business, and this is the perfect place to do it.”

An example of the extensive range of courses was ongoing on the day of PFM’s visit to the facility late last year, 15 months after its opening.

This was delivered by the company’s group health and safety director Keith Blundred to colleagues working in all areas of the business.

Using a mixture of personal anecdotes, humorous slides and graphics and encouragement for all delegates to share their thoughts with their fellow workers, Mr Blundred had created a relaxed atmosphere that avoided the pitfalls of some classroom-based learning courses.

Working their way through the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Working safely handbook, he ensured that not only were the many important health and safety messages discussed in general, these were also used to highlight particular areas of importance for each attendee within their current role.

As a result, delegates were not only given information and instruction on the importance of working safely and complying with all requirements in this respect, they additionally benefited from learning more about the role of their colleagues and gaining greater understanding about the wider picture of the business and its many areas of operations.

“We also encourage staff to think about retraining, especially if they’re keen to further develop their career, and much of this can be provided here. That’s in addition to the many tasks and training courses we provide for our apprentices,” says Mr Massey.

An outline of the various advantages gained by retraining is provided by Mr Massey in the form of engineers obtaining both HVAC and electrical qualifications, allowing them to carry out more on-site tasks during a single visit, with obvious benefits for the business included within this, in addition to assisting individuals in increasing their level of job satisfaction.

Within the workshop area of the training centre are dedicated areas for electrical, lighting, plumbing, pump refurbishment and building energy management systems (BEMS).

“We included the pump section because we were finding that many of our call outs were for problems with pumps,” Mr Massey continues.

“This frequently required additional visits by the engineer to fit new parts once the problem had been identified.”

Having trained engineers to fit new parts for pumps, included within the stock items in their vans, this allows the company to offer an improved service to customers, he states, by allowing systems to regain operational status wherever possible without having to wait for parts to arrive and the engineer to return to site to fit them.

Affiliation has been gained with the NICEIC by the ABM training centre and the company further encourages staff to record their feedback via an app it has created specifically for this purpose.

Higher levels of staff engagement is another element enjoyed through discussions included within training courses.

“We’re making the most of our training centre and we’re very keen to see this continue,” says Mr Massey.

“The business has ambitious plans for growth in the future, so the centre will be a major part in making sure that everyone has the skills and knowledge they need to help with that.”

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