By Andre Mars

Companies in the FM industry and further afield often talk about their people being their “key resource”, and that their staff are “their most important asset”. My experience is that most companies see investing in skills development and knowledge transfer as having no return on investment, due to what they consider as the transit nature of the workforce. There is also the notion that employees may use this as a springboard to further their own career prospects.

At Cofely Besix Facility Management we see things a little differently. We have made a company-wide commitment to all our staff to build their capacity to be more effective and add value to our processes and the industry as a whole. No matter when or why employees come or go, they will always leave better skilled than when they joined.
Not only is it a great motivating factor for the staff member concerned, but also for those around him or her to see progression, development and building confidence in these members of staff. We believe that this is key to the overall ethos of a successful business going forward.

It is so important that employees continue their development with the support of such schemes. Lifelong learning for many ends at when they leave formal education, and by successfully introducing such a programme, it has allowed individuals to continue their career and learning development. By combining both vocational attainment with structured learning, we are able to achieve a desired outcome in the longer term.

To illustrate the process I wanted to share with you our first successful internship programme at Cofely Besix FM, where one of their carpenters re-trained through a set learning and mentoring programme, to become a HSE officer. The internship (mentorship) programme ran for a period of 18 months directed under the mentorship of the QHSE Manager, and was a well-planned process with key milestones to be achieved. These milestones were loosely based on elements taken out of the Body of Knowledge from the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. Individual Health Safety and Environment practitioners were assigned to provide mentoring and job-shadowing on a daily basis, whilst continuous 3600 evaluations took place - weekly by HSE Officers, and monthly by Facility Managers and the QHSE Manager.
As well as the mentoring process, special projects were assigned to the intern, targeting specific knowledge areas such as COSHH assessments, fire risk assessments, and occupational hygiene monitoring (noise assessments etc.), as well as developing HSE plans and reports, for example. All activities, progress and achievements were recorded in an intern log book which was periodically reviewed, and this enabled us to identify which learning areas required additional mentoring, whilst revising our learning targets and objectives for these as we went along. The intern also underwent formal NEBOSH Training, OHSAS 18001 Lead Auditor Training, Behavioural Based Safety training, First Aid, as well as training in Air Monitoring, Confined Space Entry, Scaffold Inspection, to name a few.

He was then finally registered with the Abu Dhabi EHS Centre (OSHAD) where he successfully completed training and grading as an OHS Practitioners. This was specifically based on acquiring in-depth knowledge of local OH&S legislation and to enhance his professional profile. We are now in the process of expanding this program to afford employees aspiring to pursue a career in HSE, to undergo a similar internship program as HSE inspectors which will also create a career path for HSE practitioners in the company. Further efforts are in progress to incorporate a similar scheme for FM Supervisors and Facility Managers.

Recent publications show the industry is rapidly expanding in scope and size with an ever increasing demand for skilled professionals. Hence, we should find innovative ways towards capacity building that goes beyond value employees as mere workers in transit not worth investing in. And for anyone out there asking why we are so willing to share our internal processes with our competitors? Well, it’s simple. By improving the standard of development and learning of staff at Cofely Besix, we are helping to raise the overall standard of employees right across the region. Ultimately everyone working in the FM industry, as well as our clients, will benefit.
(Andre Mars is the Quality Health Safety and Environment (QHSE) manager at Cofely Besix Facility Management)









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