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Commercial Flooring News

Call To Action On The Skills Crisis

MUCH as the Kaiser Chiefs had predicted a riot, I predict a labour shortage. OK, I’m not claiming some sort of visionary abilities here. I mean, the notion has already been covered in some detail in CFJ and mentioned in many other areas of the construction press.
The reasons are also pretty well understood but just for the record, I believe some of the main drivers for our sector are as follows: Some fitters found themselves without work during the recession and drifted away from the industry.
During this same period, companies went out of business, fitters retired and there was no particular reason (demand) driving their replacement. And whilst we have lost fitters from one end, companies have also understandably been reluctant to train mature new starters and even more reluctant to take on young apprentices.
But if we are going to move forward, then some of those elements have to change and in many respects it provides us with an opportunity to evaluate what we ideally want. Put another way, what should companies be seeking when they consider employing a fitter?
If being flippant, then I guess you or I could probably simply say ‘someone with experience, who can fit floors’. But the issue with that approach is that it is difficult to prove whether someone is as good as they say they are and it doesn’t give much of an incentive to new and particularly young blood.
So my logic then moves to the following model for the ‘ideal’ fitter, something that can be replicated to suit any starting position and takes a fitter through a recognised career path. This approach ensures that any employer they might work with has some tangible indication of their skills base without doing their own test or taking the high risk leap of faith of simply trying them out on a job.
So, first of all I think all fitters should ideally obtain training (through an apprenticeship for the younger person) and a basic qualification in floorlaying. An NVQ level 2 or through the modern apprenticeship route in Scotland, an SVQ level 3. NVQs are of course available for experienced workers. This then allows fitters to obtain an appropriate CSCS card, renewable every five years, which of course also has a health and safety element.
Whilst CSCS have had some issues in the past, I believe that the recent review provides an opportunity for industry to get behind the scheme and use it to its full potential. i.e. help to ensure that only competent, qualified and safe craftsman work within construction. Those can’t be bad aspirations for our industries fitters, can they?
As an industry we have also lobbied long and hard to be recognised for the skills and expertise that we bring to a project. There is no doubt that ours is a technically demanding sector and technology has and is developing. So it follows that we should ensure that all floorlayers have a formal way in which they can build upon that foundation of the (S)NVQ and stay up to date. Continual professional development or CPD.
Many professions do this and the CFA through FITA have developed our QA cards scheme which offers exactly that. Structured CPD for floorlayers that reflects commercial developments and demands. See www.fita.co.uk
The QA card is now well established and indeed has, along with CFA membership for the companies that employ them, been a requirement for all fitters who work on M&S projects since 2009. Specsavers have recently adopted the same approach and many more conversations are current taking place.
As another major step forward, we have been given approval by CSCS for the QA card scheme to be recognised within their smartcard system. Once developed, the intention is that any fitter with a QA card will also have these accreditations visible to clients and employers when their CSCS card is scanned.
We are not a highly regulated industry and there is no doubt that some clients will choose the cheapest option. However, in this increasingly competitive market, it is clear that more and more clients are looking for assurances and added value.
I believe they are increasingly recognising the benefits of working with trade associations, vetted companies, trained and qualified fitters and driving a ‘right first time’ approach to ensure a return on their investment.
As demand grows, the above model provides our sector with an important element to support successful and sustainable businesses and critically, competitively delivering high quality flooring installations using the best technology available. That’s the sort of thing that I feel we should all be aspiring too and are core values of the CFA.
The CFA is a leading trade association representing the Flooring Industry. If you would like an application pack or further information on the benefits of membership, please visit our website: www.cfa.org.uk
T: 0115 941 1126
E: info@cfa.org.uk

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