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Oily rags and overalls is a public view of engineering and facilities management (FM), despite offering a pathway that promises no university debt and earning potential, says an FM contract company that is trialling a scheme to find new talent. ABM UK welcomed 36 West London schoolchildren and their parents to the launch of its first Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (JEEP) at its employee training centre in Greenford, Middlesex. As an advocate of the campaign, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ambassador and former Tomorrow’s World TV presenter Kate Bellingham spoke to children and their parents.
Despite UK Government initiatives like the Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of T levels at school, businesses have a responsibility too, the firm argues. The Programme stemmed from ABM UK’s group managing director, Andy Donnell, who started as an apprentice electrician when he was 16. Donnell worked his way up to oversee the acquisition of Westway Services (now ABM UK) by American services company ABM.
Donnell says: “This industry has an image problem that we need to change. People either don’t know about the opportunities that facilities management and engineering offer or they think it’s about oily rags and no prospects. This couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, these technical roles are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying … and they have no debt!
“As an industry, we have a responsibility to start attracting fresh, young talent, and we believe that the JEEP is a fantastic first step towards doing that. But it can’t be a flash in the pan: making the industry appeal to the next generation of talent is a monumental challenge, and changes won’t happen overnight, which is why we see this as a long-term, industry-wide campaign.”
Rhe UK Government recently announced its Year of Engineering, which accepts that the UK’s skills shortage is having an effect on engineering productivity and growth. That campaign is pledging to work with industry partners to offer a million direct and inspiring experiences of engineering to young people in 2018.
ABM UK has developed what it terms an immersive syllabus, which will be delivered to 36 year seven children from three London borough of Ealing secondary schools: Northolt High, Brentside High, and Featherstone High.
Running from January to July, the pilot will engage pupils in engineering and facilities management with interactive sessions, and educate them that careers in these sectors offer opportunities and earning potential. Topics covered will include electrics, cooling and sustainability. Planned field trips to London’s Heathrow Airport and Transport for London’s train maintenance facility will explain how engineering plays out in a career setting.
The children will be awarded a certified qualification from industry body, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), which will work as a credit towards an apprenticeship or further course should they decide to pursue a career in the industry when they leave school.
Linda Hausmanis, chief executive of the BIFM, said: “The BIFM is absolutely delighted to work alongside ABM UK on this initiative. For many years the demographic time bomb facing FM has been much lauded and finding ways to encourage young people into FM as a career of choice has been a long-held ambition of the Institute. I wish the 36 young people every success with the programme and, who knows, one day one of them may be heralded as the “FM Newcomer of the Year” like Conrad Dinsmore was at the BIFM Awards 2017.”
Photo courtesy of ABM UK; Vicky Jones, Subject Leader for science, Northholt High School; Adam Baker, business development and marketing director, ABM UK; The Worshipful The Mayor of the London Borough of Ealing, Councillor Simon Woodroofe; and Kate Bellingham with Year 7 students from Northolt High.