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Changing face of facilities management in education sector

By Colin Kenton, Managing Director of FM Services at KBR

Posted by Julian Owen | October 30, 2017 | Facilities management

The role of a facilities manager is to ensure that buildings and their services meet the needs of those who use them. Perhaps nowhere is this more important than in the education sector; maintaining the best possible learning environment will not only inspire young people in their learning and development, but also enable staff to do their best work. And what’s more, as a 2016 Education and Skills Funding Agency report states, “The environment has the potential to adversely affect education, but this risk can be significantly reduced with appropriate maintenance”.

Recent financial uncertainty created by the outcome of the EU referendum, and government policies including the new minimum wage, are prompting many public sector organisations to rethink their FM delivery. In the current climate of austerity, the education system is having to do more with less, yet parent and student expectations, if anything, are at an all-time high. In addition, under the One Public Estate programme, there will be a projected 500 ‘Free schools’ in operation by 2020. The face of the education sector is changing dramatically and so too are the FM models that service them.

In the past, schools and universities would directly employ cleaners, groundskeepers and catering staff – only turning to contractors for specialist services such as air-conditioning or equipment maintenance. But over the past two decades the FM market has moved away from in-house to outsourced delivery in a variety of forms – 69% of the market now outsources more than half their facilities services. And while many point to the rise in bundling and integrating facilities management services, there remains a strong market for individual, specialist service delivery.

So, what are these outsourced models, how do they differ, and which are most appropriate for educational institutions?

The Managing Agent

Created as a solution to the time-consuming single service outsourcing approach practiced pre-millennium, this model means that a single consultant is engaged to manage all service provisions; from the pitch-line painting to class-room equipment maintenance and boiler repairs. Once fashionable, this approach is now considered by some to be outdated and costly and many educational institutions are now notably shifting towards a multi-service approach.

The Alliance

The Alliance Model adopts a collaborative approach between ‘best-in-breed’ partners. Hailed by some as ‘redefining FM for the 21st century’, the Alliance model has never realised its full potential, and certainly not in the world of education.

Total Facilities Management (TFM)

With TFM, all service delivery is outsourced under a single contract to one organisation who may self-deliver or subcontract some tasks to specialist providers. Although gaining in popularity, TFM is certainly not the solution for everyone. Using TFM is simple in that there is one contract, one point of contact and typically a fixed budget. In that way, it is not dissimilar to the Managing Agent model, though while this acts as a ‘middle-man’, co-ordinating suppliers, the TFM model offers one supplier providing all services. Some however view this as a potential risk.

The Integrator

Recently, a new approach to FM has emerged. The Integrator oversees all service providers in the supply chain, including (unlike the Managing Agent model), reporting and performance management. By delivering a single system, the Integrator’s helpdesk service becomes a single line of contact in the management of all scheduled, planned and reactive orders.

The key benefit of this model is its simplicity, those responsible for FM at institutions are freed up from supervising regular maintenance and can take a strategic approach to their school estate planning and asset management. Site and facilities managers also have scope to plan for the future whatever social, economic or political changes are yet to come. 

In an increasingly turbulent political climate with ever mounting budget cuts, the education sector is going to have to be not only more flexible but also more creative in its approach to FM. With a variety of models to choose from, schools can now implement a bespoke strategic approach that can not only alleviate disruption and budget pressures while maintaining high standards, but create the optimal learning environment for students. 

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