The KBB industry is not doing enough to overcome the installation skills gap crisis and immediate action is needed, was the stark warning issued by the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI).
Speaking at its annual conference at the QEII Centre in Westminster, London, chief executive of the BiKBBI Damian Walters said: “Despite the great collaborative work we have achieved in the creation of our fit for purpose apprenticeship – our industry is failing.
“Whilst pockets of great work and support exist, the industry is simply not doing enough to overcome this skills gap crisis, as a collective.”
He pointed to the plumbing and heating sector, which he reported had embraced the apprenticeship scheme and started to reverse its skills gap crisis, adding “we have hardly scratched the surface and we are nowhere near a place that makes me feel comfortable about the future of our sector.”
Following a national roadshow presenting to secondary school children about the opportunities in the KBB industry, Damian Walters said he attracted the attentions of 350 school leavers who were interested in joining the industry.
“However, the tragic fact is that we, as a multibillion pound industry and with thousands of installers, manufacturers and retailers between us all, couldn’t create 350 apprenticeship vacancies.
“And the net result of this travesty is that 350 school leavers have embarked on careers elsewhere.”
He continued: “Let me add some context, that could have been 350 future businesses capable of installing 15,000 installations a year, over time.
“Whilst that’s a drop in the ocean and not enough in itself to fix the problem, it would have been a solid start.
“Our failure to create the apprenticeship vacancies is a missed opportunity for our industry or should I say 15,000 missed opportunities annually.”
Walters stated that young people are interested in careers in KBB and it was up to the industry to make a difference.
He called upon the industry to “wake up and smell the coffee”, unite and take immediate action, adding: “The familiar nodding and agreement needs to now progress through to reaction and ultimately the employment of real apprentices.
“Each and every one of us has a responsibility to play a participating role, if we’re to avoid a land without labour.
“This utterly brilliant industry holds the key to unlock this challenge and I genuinely believe that we can do this. But we, as BiKBBI can not do this alone.
“We can do this but now is the time to stop talking and start doing. Again, and to reiterate my words from last year, we have no Plan B.”
BiKBBI set out three key areas of focus for 2023 to support and grow the industry: learning and development, sustainability and raising standards.