Get behind training

23 Feb, 17

Why are we still debating this?

There are some topics of debate which have been circulating the industry, ever since I joined it 19 years’ ago. Despite years of deliberation, examination and contemplation, and similarly to the never-ending Penrose stairs, there never seems to have been a conclusion. There’s been the argument over CAD versus hand-drawing skills and what makes for the most creative, skilled and professional designs. There’s been the threat of the DIY giants (now more recently the internet) and the impact on showroom sales and then there’s training…

Nearly two decades ago, it was training…what training? There were demands the industry should become more professional by creating, adopting and maintaining standards in design and specification. There were hopes of a qualification to prove experience and demonstrate a skill set. It was followed by outrage when the Construction Industry Training Board targeted the kitchen and bathroom industry, issuing a levy on businesses for training, despite few (if any) courses being available. Then, there was a glimmer of hope, a Foundation Degree in Kitchen Design which seemed to tick all the boxes. Creation of standards? Check. Qualification? Check. But, oh no. It has been questioned where is the career path for young people entering the industry? Not to mention, whether a degree is required to design a kitchen at all? Back to the circular debate then.

Well, not if I can help it.

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It’s great to see the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation has been granted approval by the government for the development of an apprenticeship for fitted interiors. And it’s a great starting point for a formalised career pathway into the KBB industry, ensuring there are people who can demonstrate knowledge, understanding and competence. It sows the future seed for the KBB industry and particularly the independent sector, where there are very real concerns about dwindling business succession. It may also encourage these apprenticeships to continue their professional development and education to take a degree in Kitchen Design.

And here seems to be the biggest bone of contention, where designers seem to fall into a ‘for’ or ‘against’ higher education camp. But does it really need to be that black and white? Do you NEED a degree to design a kitchen – possibly not – but a qualification does demonstrate a level of skill and understanding. If you can equal that with years of experience – learning on the job – then that’s fine too. But why decry the more formal path of study? Can’t we simply celebrate there are opportunities in the kitchen and bathroom design industry that just weren’t possible 20 years’ ago?

So I say get behind training. Support it by offering your views on what should be included as the curriculum. Make it your legacy to help formulate the knowledge base and skill set of future generations in kitchen and bathroom design. In doing this you could not only elevate the industry but eradicate cowboys.

Ultimately, it may mean an education-only route into kitchen and bathroom, with restrictions on opening bathroom and kitchen design practices. It may see only those who can prove their qualifications working within the biggest investment someone can make – their home. But is it truly a bad thing? Well, you can always take another 20 years to debate that…