Kbb retailers voice apprenticeships frustration at Kbsa Conference

Kbb retailers voiced their frustration about apprenticeships, saying it was easier to employ and train young people without using the scheme.

04 Oct, 23

Kbb retailers voiced their frustration about apprenticeships, saying it was easier to employ and train young people without using the scheme, at the Kbsa KBB Conference.

Kbb retailers voice apprenticeships frustrations at Kbsa Conference

Apprenticeships formed one of the topics for discussion during The Big Debate, with an expert panel chaired by broadcaster and journalist Juliet Morris.

The panel included CEO of Coalville Kitchens and Kutchenhaus Lutterworth franchisee Luke Wedgbury, design and marketing director at Lima Kitchens Elizabeth Pantling-Jones, design director of Kitchens by JS Geddes Joanna Geddes and design and showroom manager at Halcyon Interiors Graham Robinson.

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Voicing her thoughts on the apprenticeship scheme, design and marketing director at Lima Kitchens Elizabeth Pantling-Jones said: “I really want to be an advocate but I don’t think we’re at a point where I can be.”

Although Lima Kitchens onboarded an apprentice two years’ ago, she cited lack of communication between business and apprenticeship providers, with little or no provision of competences or guidance as a business owner.

“Nearly two years down the line, we are told our apprentice would be passing with distinction which is great and I’m really, really pleased for him. But I have no idea what the competences are.

“I have no idea what another person on that course has learnt. There isn’t any guidance. There is a lack of communication.”

She added: “I’m a big advocate for supporting young people. Out of 10 of us, two of us are directors and six of the team are in their 20s.

“We’re finding it easier and more effective employing them without an apprenticeship and we know the guidance that is being given and we understand what’s happening.”

Luke Wedbury of Coalville Kitchens echoed her concerns: “As an industry, yes, we do have to step up, but all of the pressure is on us employers.”

Having employed two apprentices, he said the KBB industry needed to highlight success stories, but he added: “I didn’t go to a training provider. I brought them into the business and I trained them that way.”

“We’ve done the same, taken someone into the business and trained them up”, added Graham Robinson of Halcyon Interiors.

Speaking from the floor, apprenticeship manager for LEAP Apprenticeships & Early Careers Barry Moss agreed the process was complicated and challenging, however stated: “If everybody was doing what you guys are doing and bringing in new, diverse talent into the industry, we wouldn’t need apprenticeships. But they’re not.”

He explained the benefit of bringing an apprenticeship into a business combined work-based  learning with standardised industry knowledge.

However, Elizabeth Pantling-Jones added: “At no point, have I as an employer, been told what that standard is. Someone could come to me and say I’ve done this, and I have a certain expectation, but that expectation may or may not be accurate.”

Joanna Geddes called for apprenticeships to be tailor-made to the industry, adding one of her apprentices was taught how to fit a PVC window. “That is of no value to me at all. If the courses are not tailor made to our industry, we are wasting time, we are wasting resources in sending young people there to not give us enough back for the money we’ve invested.”

The panel estimated the cost to take on an apprentice was around £50,000 in the first year, alone, with Luke Wedgbury adding “that’s just the monetary value that’s measurable.”

He highlighted the hidden costs of apprenticeships, such as slowing down existing designers or installers who are tutoring, with Pantling-Jones pointing to cost of mistakes.

Elizabeth Pantling Jones hoped retailers passionate about the industry would employ new talent, bring in fresh ideas and invest in youth.

However according to a poll of the KBB Conference audience nearly two thirds (59%) have not taken on an apprentice and have no plans to do so.

Responding to the panel on LinkedIn, director of LEAP Andy Rayner added: “The fabulous news is that in the English system apprentices are tailor made for industry.

“In fact, it’s even better than that, as through the trailblazer system they are written by industry.

“We have dozens of kitchen designers on the apprenticeship and get great feedback from them and their managers.”