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Recognising the old Masters

Author : Tim Fryer

11 September 2012

There is an untrained sector of the industry – the middle managers in their 30s and 40s - that is destined to lead the industry and yet is untrained to do so. That is the opinion of the Facilities Management Association (FMA), and as Tim Fryer reports, it has come up with a solution.

Facilities Management companies are currently led by a generation of entrepreneurs. These people and their companies have grown as the FM industry has evolved over recent years. However, many of these companies are now coming round for a second generation of management – so where are these managers going to come from?

Most people entering the sector are doing so at degree level or with NVQs or similar qualifications. This bodes well for the future of the sector as it becomes more recognised in its own right and more professional. Most companies either employ people with qualifications or put them through training programmes at an early stage. However there are many people in their 30s and 40s who are running major sites and have lots of experience in the FM sector but have no formal qualification.

Such people are not only potentially the company managers of the future, they are also often the people whose abilities contracts are won and lost on, and yet there is no way of quantifying their expertise.

This is a gap that has been vexing many of the members of the FMA, and Chris Hoar, the Association’s Chief Executive, has unveiled a programme that will hopefully plug it. At the core of the programme is an MBA that is being run by Sheffield Hallam University.

The University already runs an open-access MBA in facilities management and as Hoar commented: “They are a centre of excellence in facilities management and so were the first choice for FMA.” However, the access for the FMA-course and the delivery is substantially different from the open-access course.

“There will be a different delivery method,” explained Mel Bull, Course Leader for the Facilities Mangement MBA. “The open-access MBA will be delivered in Sheffield while the FMA MBA will be delivered in London. There will be two-day contact per module and each module lasts three months. Students will get a pack a month before each module containing pre-course reading, a textbook, journal articles, bits to read and explore in their own organisations so they are ready to come into the classroom for two days. Then they will have six to eight weeks to go away and do their assignments. All of our assignments are based on them taking the theory and putting it into practice by exploring areas within their organisation. This is where it feeds back into the organisation because when it comes to do the dissertation then it will be something specific to their organisation, so they are actually putting something back into the company that has put money into them in the first place. They need to work with their organisation to make sure they don’t work with something confidential or contentious, but the opportunity is there for original research.”

However, perhaps it is the entry to the course that provides the biggest opportunity. While a Masters level course is typically for postgraduate students, entry to the FMA MBA does not require a first degree. To both ensure that this programme maximises opportunity, yet restricts the MBA to people who are able to get through it, the FMA has worked with Dr Brian Atkin who is Director of the Facilities Society. Between the three parties, including Sheffield Hallam, they have packaged a ‘Certificate in Facilities Management’ that provides entry into the FMA MBA. This Certificate lasts for three months and comprises of three modules that have been lifted from Masters courses.

Atkin described the Certificate course: “There will be home studying, assignments, and some interaction through teleconferences. There is actually a demonstration of how it will work on youtube. The assignments will take principals from the learning and apply them to the workplace. What we are trying to achieve is a connection between the theory and principles and practice, and we do that through the medium of assignments.” There are no exams but there is an assignment for each of the three modules. Atkin continued: “180 hours over three months means putting aside about a day and a half a week. It is important that they survive this three month test because they will be making at least this commitment when they go on to the Masters. So if they struggle with this then we would advise them not to go on to the MBA. This is a way of finding out who has the time to pursue their subject.

“One of the themes is stakeholders – we are trying to get people to understand the power and the importance of stakeholders – so we will take that as a theme and ask them to analyse their own organisation – either where they are on site or their own employer. And try to understand who the stakeholders are and how they can manage them so that they can achieve successful outcomes. The other themes are issues related to success factors and performance indicators – how to deal with performance management. And the other theme is benchmarking. That will be looking at the management process rather than the hard figures. So the three assignments will tap into quite different mindsets. This should provide them with a way of proving what they can do and giver them confidence going into the MBA.”

The first Certificate Course is due to launch this October with a view to an intake for the MBA at Sheffield Hallam in March 2013. There are 25 places available for the first course but it will not stop there. Atkin said: “This is a rolling programme, not a one off. So for all that there is an immediate issue of getting people involved [for the October intake to the Certificate] we are already thinking of the next course. Just having 25 people involved over three years would create a few ripples, but we want to make a bigger impact than that – this really is a rolling programme.”

The Modules on the MBA include:
Strategic management in action for facility management
Managing organisations and people
Strategic facilities management
Strategic marketing and communications for facilities management
Finance for facilities management
Strategic property asset management
Leadership and strategies for change for facilities management
Work-based project
Research methods

As Atkin pointed out: “The idea is to give them a real breadth of capabilities, not take specialisms, like engineering or hard or soft services and train them further in that. That would just create super-technicians and unable to think outside that. That is clearly not what we are about. They are going to be running businesses, or major parts of it, in the future and they need the skills. That is why Sheffield Hallam is there because it is offering that mix of management and FM.”

The course will be targeted at a different sort of organisation than originally prompted the development of the open-access MBA at Sheffield. Originally it was largely targeted at public sector, particularly health, as people were needing to be trained for the senior roles. Bull said: “Obviously a lot of private providers are providing those services into the public sector so we need to look at it differently as well. We have now got half and half public/private sector on the open access MBA. But the FMA MBA is something that helps with the tendering process – companies can say we have got professional trained FMs when they are going out. I think the private sector companies are going to benefit hugely from having that professionalism in the FM industry.”

This theme of professionalim was picked up on by Hoar: “Certain CEOs and parts of the press have been going on over the last year about professionalising the industry and we, with Sheffield Hallam, are trying to do something about it. Now we need to see how the industry reacts.”

Obviously the first reaction needs to be a quick one if students are going to get on the October Certificate course. Both the Certificate and MBA is closed to FMA members and will cost £750 for the Certificate and £9900 for the MBA. As the normal open-access MBA cost around £11500 it only takes a couple of students to enrol for the FMA membership fee to be paid back in its own right. However, it is clear that the motivation is for the FMA to provide a solution for its members and so help the sector overcome a problem.

Hoar concluded: “Old school CEOs and boards are getting to the end of their working lives and we are seeing a more service-driven, management-driven organisations coming into the FM sector and they are going to need people to help. This is appreciating that people with a huge amount of experience but not necessarily that huge academic background can do it, but they need support to succeed. Hopefully this will fill the gap.”

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