Why has the Strata and Facilities Management (SFM) sector struggled to find quality workers to fill the Property Executive roles over the years? Reasons include jobseekers striving for more “prestigious” and interesting careers and not wanting to deal with “residents from hell”. In short, many presume that a Property Executive’s life is rather dull, demeaning, and far too difficult for the lower pay.
This view could not be further than the truth. In fact, graduates from the Career Conversion Programme for Property & Facilities Management have found learning opportunities and new experiences in the role, given the myriad activities in managing expectations and serving the needs of building occupants.
How has this joint programme from NTUC’s e2i and the Real Estate and Construction Academy (RECA) consistently drawn a steady pool of mature jobseekers and produced quality career converted candidates for SFM employers over the last 16 years?
Simple. It’s the passion that RECA Director and industry veteran Dr Quah Lee Kiang has, not just for the job but also for supporting, uplifting and empowering mature jobseekers.
“Honestly, career conversion training is not about how many jobseekers I help to find jobs, but helping jobseekers to transit into their new careers successfully. It’s empowering them to excel and succeed.” – Dr Quah Lee Kiang
Besides a strong belief that career converted graduates can make meaningful contributions to the SFM industry, RECA delivers training through a handpicked faculty of experienced practitioners who provide state-of-the-art knowledge and industry practices through a problem-based learning pedagogy. This hallmark of RECA has led to it winning the World Workplace Asia Pacific FM Training Institution of the Year 2022.
The Career Conversion programme’s success would not be possible without the support of loyal employers like Mr Chan Kok Hong of Savills Property Management, Singapore. He was one of the first to readily partner with Dr Quah when the programme was launched by RECA in 2006.
While some employers may see mature workers as the first to get retrenched, Mr Chan believes that in his line of work, the value of the employee increases with their age.
“Mature workers have already had a career. Some have been in senior managerial positions before. They have accumulated decades of experience and skills that fresh graduates still lack,” he says.
Examples of transferrable skills honed through one’s career include professionalism, quality control, communication, problem-solving and decision-making.
Yet, Mr Chan acknowledges that not everyone can succeed in this line. Succeeding in the Property & Facilities Management industry requires more than work experience and professional skills alone.
Mr Chan stresses that it is really the aptitude of the person that will determine whether they make or break in this industry: do you have the desire to serve and go the extra mile for your residents?
“You’re not just a pencil pusher who calls up contractors to get quotes. This job is more than management of the building. It’s the management of the residents and council members. If you don’t bother to build relationships and genuine care for the residents, you won’t succeed.” – Mr Chan Kok Hong
Dr Quah gives a realistic view of the requirements to the jobseekers at the job opportunity briefings. Those who believe that they can do the job are then referred to potential employers like Savills Property Management, Singapore who make the final decision whether to interview the jobseeker and offer them a course sponsorship. Thankfully, after years of partnership, Mr Chan comments that Dr Quah is very familiar with the type of candidates who may meet the strata industry and employer’s needs.
Mr Chan is grateful for the quality of career converts that Dr Quah has provided him, many of whom have stayed with Savills Property Management, Singapore for several years.
The Career Conversion Programme for Property & Facilities Management has done more than give mature workers an opportunity at employment. It has given them personal counsel, boosted their confidence, helped them to discover their potential and found them greater satisfaction at work.
“Being a condo manager is more than SOPs. It’s about working with and leading your team in difficult situations. I believe it’s important to share your knowledge with your contractors, to empower them to know how to handle simple tasks.” – Anne Yeo
Anne is one of Mr Chan’s long-staying employees, having joined Savills Property Management, Singapore in 2009 after completing the Property Executive programme. She is well-loved by all at the District Nine condominium where she works as the Strata Manager. This is not just because she goes above and beyond for her residents but because she extends help to her team of contractors as well.
Anne was no stranger to managing a team of colleagues. Before joining the SFM sector, she was in charge of procurement, maintenance, and fire safety of a warehouse for a multinational company. But managing varying residents, let alone building such a good rapport with them, was something new to Anne.
Recognising that she needs help to keep the condominium running at all times, Anne makes it a point to impart what she has learnt from her training to her contractors. These lessons include basic SOP and how to manage and interact with residents.
“I share with them the need to communicate with residents and inculcate in them a mindset to serve and go the extra mile to assist residents whenever the needs arise. I hope to build a better condo culture of care for the residents,” says Anne.
Even though Anne has long since graduated from the Property Executive programme, she still goes back to Dr Quah whenever she needs counsel or advice.
Dr Quah assures, “We are always available to support our past students. If they have any problems at work, they can call us, and we will be there to provide a listening ear. ”
“I’ll never refer to a resident as difficult or demanding, maybe just very challenging. When a resident comes in with feedback, a complaint or a problem to solve, I see it as a chance to learn something new. You have to have that positive perspective and try to see the good in everything.” – Janet Tan
Janet left the pre-school sector after 12 years at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to explore other career options. The decision to switch careers was uncomfortable, but Janet knew that if she did not try, she would never really know. Her positive attitude and openness led her to attend the job opportunity briefing for Property Executives.
Janet was initially worried that having only a Diploma in Early Childhood Education would lower her chances of getting in. But Dr Quah assured her that given that this was a Career Conversion programme, employers expect to interview candidates that have work experience and qualifications from different industries. Janet expresses much gratitude to Dr Quah for the effort put in by RECA on the employment facilitation front.
Throughout the training, Dr Quah continued to be a trusted mentor to Janet. The biggest lesson Janet took away was patience and empathy for difficult people – that built-up frustration taken out on others is not a personal attack but a convenient outlet.
“When work gets tough, I’ll return to ‘The Duty of Care’ taught during the programme – that the safety and well-being of the residents in my area is my responsibility, no matter how difficult a resident may be,” adds Janet.
Janet now works as a Property Officer at Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council.
“There are no SOPs for individual problems. When you go on the job, expect the unexpected always. We go in as the solution providers. You must listen to the clients. What are they facing? What options have they already tried? Why did that solution now work?” – Muhamad Roszaini
The Career Conversion programme was not Roszaini’s first exposure to Facilities Management. While still working at HBO, he had to help shut down the HBO Asia headquarters. That involved him having to liaise with facilities management personnel. Intrigued by what they did and wanting a job with more human interaction, Roszaini decided to embark on the Career Conversion programme.
The biggest obstacle Roszaini faced was to avoid thinking like an engineer. From the get-go, the students were told that there were no fixed answers to a given problem. Each facility issue is unique and requires a bespoke solution.
Roszaini gained aplenty by learning from the practitioner course facilitators and his coursemates’ sharing during their group discussions. Each participant offered a different thought process that Roszaini had never considered.
“During the course, we had career converters with 10-15 years of experience from different industries. Each person would give a different viewpoint based on their unique background. Seeing things from multiple perspectives helped me approach the SFM sector with a more open mind,” shares Roszaini.
Roszaini now works as a Digital & Transition Lead of Property Management at CBRE Singapore.
The Career Conversion Programme for Property & Facilities Management is jointly run by NTUC’s e2i and RECA. The programme is run three times a year and training is conducted on a full-time basis for six and a half weeks.
To secure a place on the programme, candidates will first be sent for interviews with prospective SFM employers. If they are successful in the interview, they will have their training fees sponsored in full by the employer who will also commit to hiring them when the training concludes. Employment is thus guaranteed for every candidate on the programme. Candidates who complete the course successfully will graduate with an Advanced Diploma in Property & Facilities Management (ADPFM); they must fulfil a one-year bond with their sponsoring employers at the conclusion of training. All career converted Property Executives will receive a minimum starting salary of $2,600 as well as a training allowance.
To find out more about what this exciting career conversion opportunity can offer you, you are invited to attend a Job Opportunity Briefing on 24 August or 7 September 2022 where further information will be provided on job duties, career prospects and training arrangements. Register now: https://e2i.sg/3C8fITj
Eligibility criteria: a good degree or diploma in any discipline from a reputable institution with ‘O’/’N’ Levels (Credits in English and Mathematics) or WDA ESS WPLN Level 5.