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Colleges Have Key Role In Training Raw Recruits

Martin Cummins on the training of people new to flooring

I AM writing this article shortly before the Christmas break, contemplating the merriment and what lies ahead for 2013.

I also have the perennial problem of what gifts to buy for my two sons … one a strapping 18-year-old and the other a sulky 15-year-old.

Gone are the days when a box of Lego, a bike or a new football kit would make up part of the list, now it is PS3 games, iPods, laptops, electric guitars and the like.

This led me to a moment of melancholy and realisation that the ‘boys’ are getting older and the real world is waiting for them. The parental influence and guidance has hopefully given them a good standing in life, but now the decisions are theirs.

So what options are available to kids leaving school these days? There is of course further academic education (accompanied by a heavy loan), going direct into employment (but what will they enjoy, what will they excel in?) including apprenticeship programmes or perhaps vocational colleges?

This leads nicely to the main point of this ar ticle.

The flooring industry offers a great deal of training for those already in the industry. There is, of course, FITA, which the CFA supports and promotes for upskilling, bespoke training, etc.

There are also other industry training bodies including Floortrain, Quickstep Academy, TAOFS and I am sure others for which I apologise for having omitted. All seem to have websites, glossy information and give opportunities for people within the industry to get up to date training on installation methods, subfloor preparation and a whole lot more.

As manufacturers, we also offer training courses designed to educate on flooring in general, but also to demonstrate and showcase our products and how they can be used to enhance a project or overcome

site issues.

All the above assumes that the people requiring training are already in the industry. But what are we doing to get new people into the industry? How many companies can afford to employ youngsters as apprentices to train and bring through as the next generation? And even if they can afford to, it takes a significant amount of time with no guarantee that the apprentice will come up to standard or indeed whether he/she ends up wanting a career in flooring as their vocation.

All the above options are covered in the recent CFA training guide, but there is another option for prospects. They can sample flooring as a possible future by attending a vocational construction college and undergoing courses featuring both academic and practical work. This allows them to see if flooring is of interest, if it is something they can excel at, and also gives formal qualifications at the end of the course.

The number of colleges offering such courses seems to be dwindling by the year which bucks the perceived trend that everybody on leaving school goes onto further education rather than into the workplace. So why are the courses shutting down?

Is it that they don’t fulfil a need? I can categorically state that on all the manufacturer support days I have attended at the various colleges I have always seen groups of youngsters enthused, interested potential future floorlayers receiving a balanced educational and practical course. The courses can var y length and in number of days attendance is required. They can also include ‘employed’ youngsters – apprentices in a flooring
company, so some businesses obviously see value in this.

Are they as good as our own training courses? A good question to ask. The answer is that any course is only as good as the instructor or tutor, the facility itself and the course content. As an educational resource, there is a requirement for constructed course modules, aims and targets, grades and assessment so the courses should have a level of consistency.

The tutors I have met have been enthusiastic, more often than not have experience in the industry also and have the training and ability to work with youngsters (not a skill we all possess). They have to meet targets, undertake teacher training etc to keep up to standard.

The flip side has to be considered. How good are the courses currently offered within the industry? Are they
consistent and subject to assessment and monitoring? How do we assess our instructors?
I believe it is imperative for the industry to look at the college system as a route to getting youngsters into the industry. The present courses offer a Level 2 Diploma which is effectively like a technical certificate. The course is pretty much as per the NVQ Level 2 but can’t be classed as NVQ due to the fact the students are not presently in a vocational workplace situation.

If we support this in whatever context that may seem fit then I am sure we can bring the industry into the fore with regard to colleges where painting and decorating, brickwork, mechanics etc all seem to have a strong standing.
When the students finish the course and achieve the Level 2 Diploma they are ready to move into the industry without the ‘corruption’ and bad habits than can sometimes be picked up by apprentices as they are told by present fitters to ‘do it this way’ ‘This is how we have always done it’.

So let’s give the youngsters and flooring a future and promote and support the colleges even though they are outside our present radar. It is not just a case of supplying product, offering seminars, showcasing products, etc at the colleges, but broadcasting that they are a valid option, and letting contractors know that they are there to prepare a new generation of youngsters.

Maybe even offer CFA membership as trainers, consult the colleges as to what they teach in the course, maybe even create the opportunity for cross-fertilisation of ideas to give a concise, consistent training.
Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but if I haven’t even considered it as an option for my son, then people currently outside the industry probably aren’t even aware of it as a valid skill and trade.

Martin Cummins is Ultra Floor technical sales manager

T: 01827 871871
www.ultra-floor.co.uk

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.