Hey! Teacher!

The BIFM qualifications in Facilities Management have now been around for 7 years and the new format is really starting to take hold. We’ve seen hundreds of students pass through our qualification programmes at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 and a number of large players in the FM industry have adopted the qualifications as a means to develop their staff. The number of tuition providers offering these courses, including both colleges and private training companies, is also rising steadily.

With the competition for your business growing ever stronger, we’ve compiled a list of 5 questions you should be asking every potential tuition provider to make sure that they don’t treat you like ‘just another brick in the wall’ and can really offer you the best route to gaining your qualification in FM.

How do you make sure that I am on the right course?

The four levels of FM Qualification are all very specifically aimed at facilities managers with certain levels of experience and responsibility, ranging from entry level (BIFM Level 3) to strategic level (BIFM Level 6) FMs and everyone in between. Because the method of assessment for these courses requires the student to draw upon examples from their own workplace, it is essential that you study at the right level to match your job role. Too high a level and you will really struggle, too low and you will gain little from the course.

When speaking to a potential training provider, make sure that they have structured mechanisms in place to assess a student’s level and make sure that they are studying the right course. This may include, for example, a discussion with student on his/her role and responsibilities, or a review of their job description or CV. We’ve developed a great starting point – our One Minute Leveller tool – which will give you a good indication of what level you should study at based on a few quick and easy multiple choice questions.

Ultimately, the choice of course is down to you. However, a good tuition provider will be able to advise you and recommend a level that is correctly aligned to your role and experience.

What sort of experience do your tutors have?

It is important to remember that these qualifications are work based rather than academic, requiring you to draw on real-life examples in order to answer questions and solve problems rather than memorising and regurgitating theories from textbooks.  Therefore it can only be beneficial to you as a student if the tutors in an organisation are themselves experienced operational Facilities Managers or FM Consultants who have been there, done that and really know what they are talking about from an operational perspective.

Don’t get me wrong – academics definitely have their place, but in my opinion they are better suited to teach academic courses, such as the FM Masters degrees. Students on experience-driven courses such as the BIFM qualifications are better served by tutors who can relate to their position and can give their own examples of how to apply the principles of what they are teaching.

What Tutorial Support do you Give?

The assessment methods for the new BIFM qualifications are, as many people have found, quite onerous. Students are required to undertake tasks such as the preparation of a brief for a supplier or a presentation for senior management and the recommended word count for each assignment can range from 3,000 to 10,000 words. When putting together this task, the student must show that they understand the concepts behind a number of pre-defined assessment criteria. Failure to demonstrate understanding of even a single one of these criteria will result in the assessment being referred for further work.

With such a detailed and challenging method of assessment, it is essential that the training provider you choose is able to provide quality tutorial advice to help guide you through the qualification. Face to face, telephone and e-mail support should be a minimum, but the best providers will take initial drafts of your assignments and provide critical feedback, pointing out what adjustments need to be made to satisfy the assessment criteria (without giving you the answers, of course!).

If you can find an organisation that gives this level of support, it will go a long way to reassuring you that they will do everything in their power to help you qualify.

What sort of quality controls do you have in place?

To ensure that the training and assessment provided by an organisation is of the highest quality, a good tuition provider should have a number of quality control measures in place. By asking about these measures, you can get an idea of how seriously a company takes the quality of its training

Quality control can be carried out in a number of ways, but should start with background checks on tutors – specifically how the tuition provider identifies whether its tutors have the relevant experience to teach at the required level. A good training provider will not, for example, use a mid-level operational FM to teach about FM Strategy on a Level 6 course! Further to this, tutors should be observed regularly (at least twice a year) to make sure that they are delivering good, informative classes and that students are engaging with their teaching style.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, make sure that the tuition provider you use has an internal moderation process for assessments. This will ensure that all assessments are standardised and students are treated equally.

Why should I come to you?

The last, but by no means least, question you should ask any tuition provider gives you the opportunity to evaluate what the organisation believes to be its key strengths. The previous questions have been about ticking the necessary boxes – now it is time to give the organisation a chance to sell themselves. Listen out for points that back up the answers to your previous questions, reinforcing the fact that they really do place importance on these issues, as well as for elements of their service that you feel add value to the training they provide. Online forums, the chance to network with other students both on and offline, post qualification support, additional services which may complement the training programme are all relevant here. I would also listen out for anything that indicates that the course provider has written its own courses specifically for the qualification they are offering.  This shows that they really are committed to delivering these particular courses.

And finally…

In this article we have listed 5 critical questions that you should ask your training provider before making the commitment to using them. To finish off, I’d just like to give you a couple of other things to take into consideration.

Length of Course – It can be very tempting to go for the shortest available course in order to rattle through the qualification as quickly as possible and minimise the amount of time spent out of the office.  I would highly discourage this. When BIFM put the new qualifications together, they put together a set of recommended learning hours for each module. Whilst these are only a guideline, a significant reduction in the amount of hours spent learning could result in a lack of thorough understanding of the subject, leading to problems with assessments or a devalued qualification.

Cost – Whilst we all have budgets to work to, I would advise that cost should be the least important element when choosing a training provider. Go with the organisation you feel most comfortable with, regardless of how much they charge. If paying for a full Diploma at any level is beyond your budget constraints, consider studying for the Certificate or Award now, then completing the additional modules to gain the Diploma at a later date when more funding has become available. The key is to ensure you are getting best value, and value is not always monetary.

Good luck with your studies!!

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