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Asset Skills research points to skills challenge

15 July 2010

Skills levels of new recruits have improved over the last six months according to the Barometer Survey of FM and cleaning employers by Asset Skills.

While 38 percent  of the 100 employers who participated in the latest Asset Skills Barometer Project claimed skills levels were up among new staff, challenges still remained in finding the right staff with the right skills and in retaining skilled staff.
FM employers said they were facing pressures both internally, through a lack of funding and cuts in budget, and externally, with competition making it difficult to secure new business.
Overall, there has been a rise in the level of optimism and staff morale in FM companies when compared to six months ago, despite falls in the levels of productivity and profitability. Compared to this time last year, optimism and effectiveness is significantly higher, however, there has also been a substantial drop in productivity, albeit from a very high initial level.
“The Barometer Survey is a rolling programme that aims to chart the link between skills investment and productivity,” said Richard Beamish, Chief Executive of Asset Skills, the Sector Skills Council for facilities management. “It is a valuable piece of industry research that helps us determine trends in skills training and gives the FM industry solid data, facts and figures from which they can draw.”  
The new Barometer findings show that over the last six months 72 percent of companies invested in technical training and in 64 percent of cases this training led to a qualification. Almost a third (32 percent) claimed to be spending more time on training than they were at the same time last year, compared to just 4 percent that stated they were spending less time. Almost half (49 percent) suggested that the level of investment in training was about the same as it was 12 months ago and 38 percent planned to move into new areas of activity in the next 12 months. That said, a third of these employers did not feel that their current staff had the skills required to complete these new activities.
Employers cited a variety of internal factors that were testing their business. These included managing with budget cuts and keeping costs down, as well as securing funding and getting clients to pay on time. Other areas cited by the Barometer, were linked to the increasing use of new technology in FM. Employers said helping staff understand new technical aspects of the job and encouraging managers to complete training were presenting challenges. The need to increase efficiency and stay up to date on new legislation, particularly around the low carbon agenda and health and safety, were also flagged as challenging.
 
Cleaning companies are performing better than they were this time last year, according to the Asset Skills Barometer Survey  which questioned a total of 94 employers about skills and other issues as part of a rolling six monthly programme.
Cleaning employers were positive about many areas of their business, in particular how effectively they felt they were performing and the current levels of staff morale – both of which were reported to have improved compared with six months ago and this time last year. However, employers also noted that running and recruitment costs had risen.
According to the survey, 18 percent of companies claim they invested more time in training over the last year, with the same proportion claiming to have invested more money. Evidence suggests that further training may be needed in future – 27 percent of employers said they planned to move into new areas of activity in the next year and 36 percent claimed that current staff did not have the skills required to undertake the new activities that they would need to.  
Motivating employees, attracting skilled staff into the sector and retaining experienced members of the workforce were highlighted as some of the challenges that companies were currently dealing with.  While the economy was not cited as a challenge by employers as frequently as it was six months ago, it remained a concern. A large proportion of firms (78 percent) said they planned to expand over the next three years, and a number of employers noted that the economy could potentially restrict their ability to do this.
A fifth of respondents felt that the skills levels of recruits has increased over the last six months, with 61 percent reporting that new employees are either fully equipped or have most of the skills that they require for the job. However, 17 percent of employers felt that new staff had none or few of the skills that they needed.



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