We have all seen the articles about how good it is to be in the FM Industry at the moment. From annual growth reports of 8.5% to the industry reaching $66B by 2020. It is no wonder then that every day new service providers enter the market to vie for a share of the outsourced FM market. With the diversity of infrastructure and growth in the built environment, the FM market should be at the forefront of innovation and development as a profession – but is this the case?
While the average age of an FM professional in the USA is 49 and most of the industry is reaching retirement, 40% of the Middle East Market are under the age of 40. So while the global market grapples with the challenges of attracting and retaining Millennial talent, the Middle East should be focused on developing the existing younger demographic in the growing industry of FM. While there are a number of locally offered courses ranging from 5 day workshops through to 1 year post graduate programs – there is yet to be a truly universal offering adopted by professionals that ticks all the boxes for certification of professionals in the same respect as accountants. With FM’s entering the industry from a range of trade and professional career paths, it is important that the industry identifies the attributes required and sets a minimum standard.
As a developing nation, the UAE is constantly updating codes and regulations in areas that affect FM. While many of these codes come from international standards, there are also a number of government agencies working on tailored local regulations to increase compliance. I have been fortunate to sit with a number of government agencies and discuss how FM professionals can support the design of regulation frameworks. One such area in the regulation of technical trades in Abu Dhabi. In developed nations most trades such as electricians and plumbers must first complete an apprentice program of four years before receiving their license to work. In the UAE this is currently not the case with technicians coming from developing nations with a diverse background in experience and qualification. The Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council is one of the government agencies seeking to work with other entities to set a minimum standard in qualification for technical trades before they can work. It is vital that the FM industry is working with government agencies on constant improvements in the regulatory environment to across all aspects of the built environment.
I recall attending a meeting with a local association where sponsors were asked what they would like to see on the agenda. Looking around the room it was clear that this was the wrong audience for this question. In-house operators account for the majority of the industry but lack a voice due to the sponsorship influence on associations. This then causes a cascading effect where events fail to lure practitioners with many commenting that the events focus on sales and not on best practice. In 2005 the FM Association of Australia engaged members across a broad range of industries and set forward an action agenda that focused on; recognition of the FM Industry in the economy, innovation, education & training, regulatory reform and sustainability. The Action Agenda was a clear strategy that set forward to elevate the FM industry in Australia with engagement across the whole industry.
Across the region there are a number of companies seeking to sell products that can do everything from reduce energy to automating workflow. Often times the case studies and data presented is done so by marketing teams and not tested in the harsh environment of the Middle East. While many organisations have pilot sites to test applications there is little to no data collaboration that occurs to give meaningful insight into innovation. FM professionals need a shared platform or project with independent analysis of data to ensure new innovation can greatly improve the service we deliver in the built environment. With so many professionals working across a vast range of assets, FM as an industry should be elevating to setting new standards. But until we come together and find a way to engage all practitioners we will continue to be behind the scenes.
(Ryan Darnell is the Executive Director - Facilities Management at Khidmah)