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Virtual Academy pilot to raise skills in FM

Published 27th May, 2010 by Neil Nixon

Virtual Academy pilot to raise skills in FM

A new project is set to alter the training landscape in facilities management by bringing employers together to collaborate on raising the skills of the workforce.
The Virtual Academy in Business Services is a pilot programme being launched by the Sector Skills Council for FM, Asset Skills. There are a number of companies in support of this already and Asset Skills is calling on more to get involved as the pilot develops.

“This project has the potential to have a far reaching impact on the way vocational training is delivered across FM,” said Chris Cracknell, chair of Asset Skills and chief executive of OCS Group Limited. “To ensure its success we need full industry backing. As a fellow employer, I would appeal to facilities companies to participate in this venture as I believe it will be of huge benefit to our sector now and in the future.”

The Virtual Academy will act as a link between business and training providers, offering practical assistance on training issues. The term ‘virtual’ was chosen because it was not the intention to create a new facility, but to harness existing structures and use technology to aid communication.

By acting as broker/facilitator, the Virtual Academy aims to put the right people onto the right courses and ensure employers come together for the benefit of the industry. For example, three companies may wish to put 100 cleaners on to a nationally accredited cleaning course.

Through the Virtual Academy, they can collaborate and choose the right training provider, according to region or number of learners, and economies of scale can be achieved.

“We established the Asset Skills Virtual Academy for Business Services in direct response to what employers in facilities management were telling us,” said Richard Beamish, chief executive of Asset Skills. “There was a real need for more coordination in delivering the range of new vocational qualifications that have been developed in FM. This pilot aims to take the pain away from the employer by having one central body dealing with the lot.”

The Academy is a low bureaucracy organisation and a pioneering venture in that no public funding is being used in its creation. Instead, a modest subscription will be charged to members, details of which can be found in the prospectus available at

The Academy is a standalone model, not part of the National Skills Academy network. The learning to be delivered will be sourced through a network of further education and private providers who Asset Skills believes are committed and able to meet industry expectations.

One of the Academy’s first tasks will be to recruit candidates onto the new Facilities Management Apprenticeship through pilots being trialled in five English regions. Another will be to ensure people with the right industry knowledge are enlisted as qualification assessors to help ensure the training on offer is a success.
As the Virtual Academy grows, electronic forums will be established to help the flow of information.

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