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Upskilling employees

31 March 2012

Leadership Edge participants

Continuing the series highlighting the winners of the 2011 PFM Awards, we turn to Interserve, Asset Skills and RICS to see why they were judged best in the Partners in Skills Development category.

Over the last five years Interserve Support Services, has more than doubled its workforce (11,000 employees in 2006 to 29,000 in 2011) and increased turnover and profit by over 50%. By 2013 the company anticipates to again double its business, with employee levels rising to 45,000 staff.

In 2007 Interserve was one of the first companies in the UK to sign the Skills Pledge, and although this is being reviewed by the current government, Interserve’s commitment remains. Within this programme Interserve has a number of objectives that include making Interserve an employer of choice, allowing people to grow, continuously improving working methods and developing a zero accident culture. Along side this Interserve aims to be the partner of choice in chosen markets and provide complete customer satisfaction.

Achieving these objectives isn’t without its challenges as Interserve has employees spread across 20,000 geographically diverse client sites. It also has a significant proportion of its staff working part-time; 44% below Level 2 skills; and some employees don’t have English as their first language.

Interserve’s solution is i-Learn, a bespoke training curriculum, designed to give everyone the opportunity to develop from basic skills levels through to their leadership programme. i-Learn is designed to map the training needs to the skills requirements as well as improving access to training at all stages of an employees career, as well as the consistency of that training and the quality of programmes and partners.

To ensure every employee has access to the right courses and qualifications at every stage of their career pathway, Interserve set about supporting the development of the following programmes:
• Skills 4 Life
• FM NVQ Level 3
• Cleaning Apprenticeship
• AssocRICS qualification
• Leadership Edge
• FM and Hard Services Apprenticeship
• Development centre
• Security NVQ

To create the right packages, Interserve worked with Asset Skills to develop a range of Apprenticeships and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) to ensure the employee pathway is backed by sound occupational standards. Together they launched the Facilities Management NVQ Level 3 and the Cleaning Apprenticeship, and are now developing the Facilities Management Advanced Apprenticeship.

“There is a real need for an FM workforce that understands the complexities and changing nature of the sector, and it is hugely important that more recruits can attain a recognised qualification in FM,” said Karen Waterlow, FM Specialist Adviser at Asset Skills. “There are a range of qualifications which have either just been launched or are about to be launched which will help raise the credibility and profile of the industry. They will play a central part in opening up facilities management and helping attract new blood while also developing existing staff.”

Cleaning Apprenticeships
Interserve was the first-ever large organisation to pilot and develop the Cleaning Apprenticeship. Designed by Asset skills and awarded by City & Guilds, learners spent between nine and 12 months studying for the qualification. Tutors worked around the learners’ shift patterns, and the first qualified cleaning apprentices completed the course at the end of 2010. Within a year 42 learners (ranging in age from 21 to 70) had completed their apprenticeships.

Initial reports have shown increased productivity, along with a more effective and better motivated workforce, with learners gaining skills and qualifications they have previously been unable to gain.

Richard Beamish, Chief Executive of Asset Skills, said, “We developed this Apprenticeship in close consultation with employers and are confident it will help improve workforce skills across the cleaning industry. Cleaning is such an essential job and skilled cleaners are a real asset. This programme will boost efforts to show cleaning as a skilled profession with plenty of scope for career progression.”

Facilities Management NVQ Level 3
In July 2010, ten Interserve employees completed the newly developed Facilities Management NVQ Level 3 accreditation, being the first candidates in the industry to complete it. The programme, developed in partnership with Asset Skills, delivered with FMTL (Facilities Management Training and Learning) and awarded by Edexcel, involves the assessment and accreditation of an employee’s skills which demonstrates that they reach the National occupational standards in health and safety, customer service, business continuity to performance management, sustainability and leadership.

The employees involved are responsible for delivering facilities management services to a range of Interserve’s central government, local government and health clients, including the Department of Health, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London Borough’s of Croydon and Ealing, and the University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

One of Interserve’s employee who spent three months completing the course commented. “This programme has helped bring a renewed focus and clarity to my work and I definitely feel better able to concentrate on projections and the bigger picture than I did before.” Pat Davis, Interserve Leadership and Development Trainer also successfully completed the training to become an internal assessor for this qualification. This has enabled Interserve to be able to build the pilot and role this programme out to a larger employee base.

Facilities Management Apprenticeship
Interserve has also developed an FM Advanced Apprenticeship to enhance further the value of this qualification to the business. The pilot programme was launched in September 2011.

Innovations in training
One interesting programme is Leadership Edge, which offers participants an opportunity to experience the integration of personal leadership development and teamwork whilst working on real-life business and community service projects. As part of the course, 25 individuals undertook a community project, where they managed and engaged with both employees and current suppliers to raise over £40,000 (in cash and kind) to renovate and update Acorn’s Children’s Hospice in Birmingham.

An evaluation questionnaire confirmed 100% of participants believed their business perspective and network had been broadened by the programme. 100% of participants are more self-aware of leadership strengths and opportunities, and 95% of participants consider their leadership engagement skills have improved.

Interserve has also taken the opportunity to link training with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) new entry level associates qualification – AssocRICS. Over a six month period in 2010, ten Interserve employees were asked to record and track their progress for measurement against each AssocRICS competency and provide a portfolio of work experience.

This qualification allows employees to be assessed against RICS’ technical and ‘soft’ competency skills and gain a recognised industry qualification – giving them and the company a key competitive advantage.

RICS Chief Executive Sean Tompkins said: “Facilities Management is an increasingly important, and increasingly sophisticated, industry that is constantly evolving and remains vital in managing the quality of our built and working environments. What we have with AssocRICS is a way to raise standards for facilities management professionals around the world and allow them to understand more about their role and how it impacts on a business... For Interserve, AssocRICS has helped to up-skill staff and has given professional recognition for their skills that will give them more confidence when dealing with clients.”

Another initiative has been the launch of Development Centres to help the business support its employees and prepare for the demands of driving the business agenda for 2013. Skills and competency assessments are capped off with psychometric profiling and aptitude tests and together serve as a basis for an individual’s development.

The result is a clear view of career and performance possibilities and a development plan to achieve it. The development centres not only support individuals and their development, they support Interseve’s contracts develop their overall capability and provide their employees with a positive and energising event. 90 managers have already gone through the development centre, benefitting from secondments and projects to help improve their careers and the services they deliver to clients.

“Whilst I was not sure what to expect prior to arriving for my half day assessment I was also looking forward to being taken out of my comfort zone and obtaining more of an understanding of where my developmental needs lay. I found the experience more and more enjoyable,” commented Joanne Jupp, Change Manager

Interserve, through its contract with the skills funding agency, has supported 53 employees through an apprenticeship programme during 2010 and has achieved some significant milestones along the way:
• Have piloted and developed the Facilities Management NVQ Level 3
• Have piloted and developed both the Cleaning and FM Apprenticeships
• 220 newly qualified Security Guards through the Skills Pledge
• Interserve learner success rates for NVQs at 96%, National Average is 84%
• 360 NVQ, Apprenticeships and Skills for Life programmes delivered
• 200-250 people undertaking an accredited learning programme at any time
• 313 completers through National Employer Service Contract in the first year
• TTG success rates above the national average
• TTG timely success rates above the national average
• 91% success rate for CAATS security courses
• Skills for Life Success rates were classified as over 80%

However, Interserve claims its most significant achievement to date is: “the individuals who we help every day that make the difference to these programmes success. Giving people the ability to read and write in English, to understand numeracy so they can help their children with their homework, pay their bills without assistance or just understand communications in English is the real benefit of these programmes.”

Moving forward
There are plans in place to further develop the scheme that includes:
• Continuing to offer skills for life programmes to unlock employee potential and progress to higher level programmes
• Further developing capability to self deliver programmes in core areas (FM, cleaning and security)
• Launching of a Hard Services (electrical and mechanical) Apprenticeship programme
• Establishing more local links to schools and colleges to deliver training
• Continuing to work with sector skills councils to develop new industry qualifications
• Embedding apprenticeships into all contracts

One particular aspect that appealed to the judges was the benefits for the FM industry as a whole. Previously it lacked qualifications to support new career entrants or existing employees wanting an introduction to qualifications tailored to their business. It is expected that the learners who have completed these new qualifications will encourage others to take up training.

“The judges said this partnership not only satisfied the need for a strategic approach for training a growing workforce, but has done so in a way that has contributed to the quality of qualifications in the FM sector”

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