MD of Quooker UK Stephen Johnson says bigger brands have a responsibility to help solve the skills gap of future installers
At Quooker, we have felt the strain the pandemic and resultant lockdowns have placed on the industry. We have seen first-hand how its affected smaller, independent retailers and how changing consumer habits have dramatically impacted sales.
It is fair to say, we have undergone some of the toughest trading conditions our industry has ever faced.
However, throughout this crisis, it has become increasingly apparent that bigger brands have a wider responsibility of care for the industry.
We are faced with two choices: To shrivel up and remain inward focused, or to work together sharing expertise and resources, to help the industry re-build, recover and thrive.
Solving skills gap
This crisis has been helpful in shining a light on the growing problem of a significant skills gap within the UK’s kbb sector.
It has become increasingly apparent that the high consumer demand for installation and after-sales care is unable to be met with any speed and in many cases, with any guarantee of quality.
Caused in part by significant EU migration and forced business closures from the COVID crisis, this problem has the potential to hinder the entire industry’s ability to bounce back.
No matter how many taps we produce, or however many kitchens and bathrooms sold, if there are not enough installers to keep pace, there is an inevitable bottleneck and a real problem.
Following the launch of the BiKBBI’s ‘Operation Next Gen’ campaign, we agreed to a three-year sponsorship deal of the institute’s new Apprenticeship initiative – a nationwide training scheme that seeks to heavily invest in the next generation of home grown KBB installers.
Alongside the BiKBBI, Quooker’s investment will drive the industry charge in promoting KBB Apprenticeship opportunities, predominantly amongst secondary school students in years 9-11.
Through the opening of 10 new regional Centres of Excellence, these training hubs across England will be key in growing local talent.
It has been the case for too long that installers and fitters are treated like second-class citizens.
We feel passionately that it is our collective responsibility as an industry to change this perception and instil real value back into the role.
Through this nationwide initiative, the hope is that by educating and promoting the work of installers and fitters, it will not only bring in more young talent, but a more diverse workforce.
The current installer workforce is predominantly male; however, the scheme looks to encourage and extend opportunities to more women to rectify this.
These centres will mark the delivery of KBB Fitted Interior Apprenticeships from September 2020, with the hope that by 2022, BiKBBI will expand these training centres into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Our investment will also be used to set up a new interactive industry website where BiKBBI members will post job vacancies and in-house apprenticeship schemes in order to offer real support to newly qualified fitters.
With ambitious targets, the Apprenticeship Initiative has been created to generate real change and we are incredibly honoured to be a part of the journey.