For over two decades we have supported individuals in their careers by sharing with them the best of our specialist market insight and knowledge. In the following interview, Tom Wilkinson, Manager of the Midlands Estates & Facilities team, discusses his experience in this sector and the current market.
What would a career in Estates & Facilities offer to a successful candidate?
It’s such a diverse sector; you can go into a variety of roles from design to operational management, and there’s always opportunity to develop your skill sets and progress. It’s interesting work and you come out of the day feeling fully rewarded for what you’ve contributed. We work a lot within the NHS and whether the role is in soft Facilities Management such as organising the housekeeping of patients’ rooms, or hard services such as keeping the lighting and the heating on, it’s really important work in contributing to the delivery of our health services.
What impact has the pandemic had on the sector?
The impact has been huge. Estates & Facilities teams have had to be really agile and develop new programmes and ways of working at speed. We ran several webinars with our university clients to help them share ideas, and assisting in this collaboration was fantastic. Estates & Facilities staff don’t always get enough credit for how they are able to keep buildings open and maximise health and safety. It takes complex Computer Aided Design and Building Information Management programming to set up lecture theatres while still incorporating social distancing. At the same time the NHS was working overtime to reopen wards quicker than normal which required significant movement and repurposing of office spaces.
What opportunities are there for progression within the sector?
The sector lends itself well to progression; the NHS are very good at providing opportunities and training. Most of the current directors in the NHS started off as engineers or in entry level roles in Facilities Management, and have steadily moved their way up over a number of years. For those who are keen to change and adapt, there are a lot of opportunities that weren’t available five years ago. For example, many in the university sector now work in Energy Management, Sustainability, and Waste Management; organisations are seeing new value in these areas. Alternatively, a skilled Engineer could progress well by transitioning into system management such as working with a Building Management System.
What skills and characteristics will hiring managers and recruiters be looking for in a candidate?
It’s a very personable business and most jobs require working within a team, so they will be looking for strong communication skills and the candidate’s ability to adapt to a team’s way of working within a particular environment. You’re never sure what you will be doing when you turn up on a Monday morning, so the ability to adapt quickly is really important. In an interview, if you’re a Level 3 qualified Plumber, they will not only focus on questions about plumbing duties, but on how well you deal with particular circumstances and people to ascertain whether you can deal with the different challenges you may face on a daily basis.
What is your top tip for someone looking to apply or progress within the sector?
Do as much training and gain as much knowledge as possible. Most organisations we work with offer a lot of training and support, so take it up where you can. For example, you can do a five-day course and get a NEBOSH general certificate which will give you additional skills and look good on your CV, whether you’re an Engineer, a Cleaning Supervisor or a CAD Technician. Much of the industry is based around health and safety, so having a certificate to demonstrate your knowledge in this area will be invaluable.
Why do you recruit for Estates & Facilities?
The roles are so important in supporting the NHS, our universities and schools. The people are very down to earth; they’re never going out there to seek credit, they just like getting on with their work and feel satisfied they’ve done a good job. These hardworking individuals make me want to come in every day and do my job, because I know I’m helping thoroughly good people in some great industries.