Day in the life of an estates manager

estates manager

Oseyoma Okiti joined Abingdon and Witney College in December 2016, after almost eight years as ‘head housekeeper’ at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust in Oxford. Earlier he trained and worked as an electrical engineer in Nigeria after gaining a degree in the subject. 

What’s your main role?

I’m responsible for the Abingdon campus, reporting to the head of estates who oversees all three main college campuses and our adult learning sites. My work includes responding to queries with contractors, project management, communicating with college staff at all levels, ensuring all statutory compliance checks are carried out . . . it’s basically everything to do with the facilities management side of the campus. I line-manage a 15-strong team of cleaners, four estates operatives and one estates supervisor. I literally cover all eventualities linked to the campus infrastructure. 

The work covers several key areas . . . including cleaning, parking, building management and security (a key responsibility - I must, for instance, ensure all 80-plus cameras on campus are always working). I spend a good deal of my time on administration, the rest out and about the campus, troubleshooting as required. The summer break is the busiest time for us when, for instance, we must check and ensure everything relating to the building infrastructure complies with health and safety standards ready for September.

What’s the FE element you like most about the job?

The environment is quite different from my previous job in the NHS where the work was more routine. In a college you can go from one job to another in the blink of an eye. You don’t know when or what will be asked of you. It’s why I changed jobs - I wanted something faster-paced. I love the unpredictable nature of the job. I work better if I have things to challenge me. It’s easy for me to adapt to whatever issues come my way.

What’s a typical day?

No such thing! I can start as early as 6am, as we often have a very narrow timeframe to get everything ready for students before they start in the morning. We often get requests from tutors to set up rooms for, say, exams or special events. I must check that all my staff are in and adjust duties as required to meet the business needs of the college. 8.30am is my usual start time. I should normally be out of here at about 2.30pm though it can often be longer.

Any specific things you did last week?

I did quite a bit! I interviewed candidates for two cleaning vacancies and they went well. I’m hoping to start them in work next Monday. But it’s quite a push to interview people and get them started in the same week. I also had to rejig rotas due to staff illness and holidays to ensure we had as many resources as possible to cover all contingencies. We had to deal with some severely leaking taps and react rapidly to a couple of important maintenance problems.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? 

People management - it’s the most important part of my job. You are often managing personalities with specific qualities that you can’t change. You must handle some people individually and differently, particularly those who don’t feel appreciated. Complications can happen when staff go off sick - something you can never plan for - and you must react fast to provide emergency cover.

Any achievement you are proud of?  

I was able to lift the morale of the team when I came in - they were very demoralised as they had not been given any solid specifications to work to. I drew up the college cleaning specification and it’s been adopted across all our campuses. Standards have since risen; we got an ‘outstanding’ internal college award last year and another this year. We all put in a huge effort and I’m very proud of my team. It’s a great stimulus for everyone to be challenged and then to be appreciated by the college for what we have achieved.

What personal qualities/skills do you need for the job?

People management skills are key. The challenges of the job mean you need your staff to support you. You also need to be a good communicator, as you are interacting with colleagues at all levels, your own team and members of the public. You need to find the right words to say at the right time to get the best staff cooperation. 

Ditto background/training/qualifications?

I’d recommend a qualification in facilities management (BIFM) - I’m currently studying online for one plus a certificate in occupational health and safety, both paid for by the college. I study in my own time. I already have an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) level 3 qualification in management and a certificate in cleaning and support services. I am also a member of the British Institute of Cleaning Science. In my job, I am always looking to recruit people who bring in varied skills to the team. I have a degree in electrical engineering and, in my NHS job, I gained several management qualifications and attended training courses relevant to my role.

What’s the key interview question you’d expect to be asked if you were applying for your job now?

There will always be something on people management - how would you, for example, manage contractors working on-site and stay on top of what they are doing?

What spurs you on to work each day?

I get a buzz from varied tasks, never knowing what’s coming up next. It’s never boring! It’s the unpredictability of the role.

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