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How can I gain practical experience in facilities management?
Gaining practical experience in facilities management is essential for understanding the industry and enhancing your skills. Here are some steps you can take to gain relevant experience in facilities management:
1. Education and Training:
- Formal Education: Enrol in a facilities management program or related field at a college or university. Many institutions offer bachelor's and master's degrees in facilities management or related industries such as engineering, mechanical engineering, business administration, architecture, and finance.
- Certifications: Consider obtaining certifications like CFM (Certified Facility Manager) or FMP (Facility Management Professional). These certifications often require a combination of education and practical experience. Additionally, consider pursuing ILM qualifications, City and Guilds, NEBOSH, and others to broaden your expertise and enhance your professional standing.
2. Internships and Apprenticeships:
- Seek internships or apprenticeships with companies or organisations with a strong facilities management department. This will give you a firsthand look at facilities managers' daily operations and challenges.
- Apprenticeships exist at all levels, from entry-level technicians up to MBA apprenticeships for senior management.
- Apprenticeships offer a good balance of practical experience and classroom-based learning.
3. Entry-Level Positions:
- Start with an entry-level position in a facilities management department. Roles such as facilities coordinator or assistant facilities manager can provide valuable experience.
- It is possible to begin in a position like cleaning and progressively advance. For example, you can become the cleaning supervisor, oversee multiple services, and eventually ascend to the facilities manager.
- Many FM companies encourage this progression and have dedicated pathways and training to promote people from within the organisation.
- Join professional organisations such as the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) or the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM). Attend their events, workshops, and conferences to meet professionals in the field and learn from their experiences.
- Engage in online forums (such as here on The Facilities Management Forum) and groups dedicated to facilities management to exchange ideas and seek advice.
- Trade shows and conferences such as The Facilities Show and IFM Tour provide opportunities to network with others within the industry.
- Offer to manage or assist in managing facilities for local charities, non-profits, community centres, or events. This can provide practical experience and help you build a personal portfolio.
- Seek out a mentor in the facilities management field. A mentor can provide guidance, share their experiences, and offer insights that can be invaluable for your growth.
7. Hands-on Projects:
- Take on small projects outside of your current job description. For example, if there is a need to redesign a workspace or implement a new energy-saving initiative, volunteer to lead or assist with the project.
- Operating outside of your usual job role helps build experience in other areas of FM, for example, procurement.
8. Soft Skills Development:
- Facilities management is not just about buildings and systems. Develop your communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills, which are crucial for success in this field.
- Creating a work journal for self-reflection can help to process and learn from situations and interactions, so that you can develop your strategies for dealing with similar issues in the future.
Remember, every experience, whether big or small, contributes to your growth in facilities management. Be proactive, seek opportunities, and continuously strive to learn and improve.