Protecting KBB future

Editor of Kitchens & Bathrooms News Philippa Turrell says everyone in the kitchen and bathroom industry needs to take responsibility for its future.

01 Mar, 23

Editor of Kitchens & Bathrooms News Philippa Turrell says everyone in the kitchen and bathroom industry needs to take responsibility for its future.

Kbb retail is resilient

During National Apprenticeship Week, the BiKBBI Annual Conference issued a stark warning that the KBB industry is failing to overcome the existing skills gap crisis, painting a bleak picture for the future.

CEO Damian Walters urged immediate action, as a lack of young people entering the market, together with ageing trade workforce, and two-thirds of installers willing to leave the KBB industry, could see a dearth of fitters.

Sponsored Video

Who will be left to fit the kitchen and bathroom projects and what impact will that have on project lead times? was the concerned question from the conference, under the theme: “Uniting the KBB industry for a bright future”.

And what can we do it about it? Because, ultimately, this will not simply an issue for fitters but will impact across the entire KBB supply chain.

The BiKBBI reported unlike the plumbing and heating sector which has embraced apprenticeship schemes, the KBB industry had “failed to scratch the surface”.

Last year, at its Building a Sustainable Future conference, the institute said the industry needed to attract young people.

Now, 12 months on, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of young people who want to join the KBB industry. Young people are recognising the value in trade skills.

Speaking to a kitchen installer apprentice at luxury KBB showroom Day True, Kitchens & Bathrooms News found their incentive for joining the industry was the potential for flipping houses and ultimately building their own home.

And, according to the BiKBBI, having undertaken a national school tour,  it attracted the attention of 350 school leavers to join the industry.

Yet CEO of BiKBBI Damian Walters said there wasn’t enough vacancies for them: “The net result of this travesty is that 350 school leavers have embarked on careers elsewhere. Let me add some context, that could have been 350 future businesses capable of 15,000 installations a year, over time.”

It seems, then, individual KBB businesses hold the key to the future, by offering apprenticeships.

But surely herein lies the issue that needs to be addressed. While the likes of B&Q, Wickes, Wren and Howdens are capable of and do employ apprentices across their businesses, many independent retailers are historically husband and wife teams.

For them, having the time and energy to take on apprentices, while maintaining service level standards, can prove challenging. What help and support do they need?

Also, independent by their very name, what encouragement may be required to consider the wider industry as well as their business?

There are schemes in place, but the industry should try harder to promote them, as these must be the remaining missing pieces in the puzzle to help secure the future of the KBB industry.