Andrew Hulbert: I am a genuine supporter of apprenticeships within all areas of FM and have been absolutely delighted with Jonny’s progress. Jonny’s can-do attitude, his ability to learn quickly and his exceptional customer services skills are exactly what we were looking for. Due to his hard work and the support of the company, Jonny has been a success and pioneered the way forward for more apprentices in his business. I would recommend any business to become involved in apprenticeships. It is so easy to do, very cost effective and gives you the chance to give young people an opportunity whom may not have had one otherwise. We need to get FM recognised as a career of choice at an early age and this is one guaranteed way to bring talented individuals in to our industry and mould them in to leaders of the future.
Name: Jonathan Lewington Age: 17 Company: Bilfinger FM Position: Building Services Engineer Apprentice
Interview by: Andrew Hulbert, Managing Director, Pareto FM
Andrew Hulbert: Hi Jonny, we always hear the majority of people fall in to FM, so can you describe why you decided to get involved in an apprenticeship, your background and how you came to join Bilfinger?
Jonny Lewington: So I grew up in Edgware, London and attended school there up to GCSE level. It got to the point where I had to decide if I wanted to complete A-levels and to be honest 6th form sounded stressful and wasn’t for me. I always enjoyed the practical side of things more so decided to complete a fastrack short course in plumbing at college. This really sparked my interested for doing something practical. I always found learning in a practical way e.g. experiments in science or playing sport was much more engaging and captured my imagination. I always knew I’d be doing something practical in life, I just can’t concentrate sitting down and I know I am at my best and can give my best in that type of role. I was also keen to engage in a role where customer service and people interaction played a big part in the day to day so I could make a difference. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for me, the chance to learn and have a paid job at the same time was seemed like a good idea.
I decided to go down the apprenticeship route and started to apply for roles on the website www.apprenticeship.org It was quite confusing I must admit, as there are so many different jobs on there. There are apprenticeships for literally anything. It became a point of finding jobs in Central London and going from there. I applied for about ten roles, two of which I was rejected, seven I didn’t hear back from and one was Bilfinger. I applied to Bilfinger because I was interested in repair and maintenance, not physically installing items but actually maintaining. That is what I wanted to do. I could also see Bilfinger was a growing international business, that could potentially offer me opportunities throughout my whole career. I was really excited and nervous to get to interview stage because I could see Bilfinger took this role very seriously. My first interview was with two Associate Directors, the second I had to complete a presentation to the same directors plus a ‘technical test’ with a technical manager and a senior engineer. I got on really well with the team and was offered the role which started in September 2013.
AH:So what has the programme entailed so far, how have you found it and what are the main things you have learnt?
JL: Bilfinger have designed a programme that will see me be based at six different sites across two years – all of which have different environments, team sizes and challenges. So far, in my first eight months or so, this has involved me attending three different sites which has included an MOD site, a management consultancy and an investment bank. The upcoming program will see me work in a 5* hotel, a data centre contract with 12 different sites and working in as part on a landlord team in a multi-tenanted office block. In the short time I have been here I have learnt some valuable lessons and some things have been really different to what I expected:
The main thing is the appreciation of how a building runs and how much effort goes in to actually getting through one day. For example the comfort cooling system in a building from AHU’s to chillers to FCU’s is a really complex set up that I didn’t have an appreciation of before.
Paperwork and PPMs. Firstly how much there is of it! But also how important PPM and SFG-20 maintenance is. In my short time it is apparent that if things are not maintained they will breakdown and it will be costly.
The engineers that I have been working with are much nicer than I thought they would have been. They have made me feel welcome. I feel really lucky and supported within my team I’m not seen as the usual apprentice that is given all the rubbish tasks, people actually care about my learning and development in this role and go out of their way to teach me. Also I have seen how different generations of engineers approach issues in a different way. The younger team complete a routine of fault finding to try and ascertain the issue. Some of the more experienced engineers know the issues and can complete first time fixes more easily.
The other thing that surprised me was the amount of different characters that work within the client buildings, how they interact with each other and with the facilities staff. I have come across some strange behaviour but on the plus side have some made some great relationships with clients and the office staff.
AH: Sounds like you are enjoying yourself then. So what happens after the scheme is finished? What would you be looking to achieve?
JL: After the initial two year placement programme, I will able to join the mobile engineering team and complete a further two years of training. On completion of the four year total programme I’d be interested in taking a residential role in my own building – I’d like the opportunity to run my own building and take pride in it, as it if it was my own home. I also have a keen interest in sustainability. My experience has shown me facilities management professionals have a responsibility to ensure buildings operate in an energy efficient way. I am really keen to develop ways to reduce energy consumption and would love to have a building of my own where I could execute these ideas. I think it is important to the clients that we save them energy so they look good to their bosses. My plan is to get lots of experience in the engineering side to build up my understanding. Then to use my knowledge of how a building is run and what the engineers do, so one day I can move in to management. My main driver for the apprenticeship is to work hard to secure a better future for myself. Ultimately, I would love to get to a level where I have to come to work in a suit everyday – I will feel like I have made it when that happens.
AH: What would you say to anyone considering becoming an apprentice or to any businesses considering taking on an apprentice role?
JL: Do it! I have been telling my friends they should do it too. Since I have been talking to my friends about it, they have all been asking me how I got on the scheme, what it involves and can I get them on the scheme too. If I ever became a manager in the future, I’d really like to go in to schools and tell them about the benefits of apprenticeships and facilities management. Then perhaps that would inspire more young people and businesses to take them up. Everyone thinks apprenticeships are just low level plumbing and electricity but it is so much more than that. You learn business skills, managerial skills, people skills. I would highly recommend going down this route. If you find a supportive business that will create a great programme for you and drive you through, it gives you a great chance at a good start in life.
By Kimberley Floyd