Education, education, education

Craig Matson, TKET chairman and managing director of  independent kitchen retailer Roundhouse, urges the industry to get behind ongoing efforts to educate and professionalise the KBB sector

I am both an employer and effectively an employee of the KBB industry and I count myself very lucky. Although on reflection, the phrase ‘the harder you work the luckier you are’ comes to mind.

I guess a combination of chances presenting themselves, my willingness to take advantage of those chances, my work ethic, a drive to continue despite setbacks, an entrepreneurial nature and my relationships are all factors which have influenced where I find myself today. However, the chances of using them effectively are probably a result of my education more than anything else. My story is one that may resonate for many employers, but I also hope that it will inspire those thinking about further education today.

I came from the northern suburbs of the most isolated city in the world, my parents struggled to keep their heads above water and the option of higher education was not very visible at home, not specifically encouraged or acknowledged. No one in my family had ever continued on to college or university after school. But the simple notion of university was presented to me at secondary school, which opened the door to further education.

I had no real detailed understanding of what further education entailed nor had I any idea what I wanted to do as a job either. When the time came, we were presented an alphabetical list of possible career choices. There, right at the top, was Architecture, and by chance, or luck, I fulfilled the required entrance qualifications – that would do.

I didn’t know how to spell architecture let alone know what it was about. However, I embraced the opportunity and eventually fell in love with the subject and was lucky enough to make some great friends and to work with a great mentor.

Lucky I was given the opportunity to come to the UK in 1987, lucky I managed to keep my job during the recession in the late 1980’s while many of my contemporaries lost theirs, lucky things were aligned for me to start Roundhouse in the mid 1990’s in the midst of the next UK recession.

This is not an exercise in self-indulgence, yes, I have been lucky, but I know above all else my education gave me the confidence to pursue things in life above my unchallenged capability and comfort zone. That is not to say I did not have to work hard, take risks, push myself and be flexible in the way I lived and worked, all of which I had to do, but I know my education was the catalyst for all the rest.

I understand that I am speaking from a position of privilege. I was lucky enough to be educated at a time when university fees did not exist. Nevertheless, the benefits I have received from my education would far outweigh any fees, had I had to pay them. I could have paid them off many times over during the course of my working life, as a direct result of the experience and expertise I gained from my education.

Now, I am coming towards the end of my career, (though I’m not considering shuffling out of the door just yet). Like many ambitious 20-year olds, I started out thinking I was going to change the world and that did not really pan out in the way I imagined. As you get older, I guess you realise how hard it is to really make a visible difference. Equally, looking back at my career I have come to realise that positive change doesn’t always have to look like saving the world.

On reflection I feel I have made a reasonable contribution, initially to architecture, and more recently in the industry I now find myself in, the KBB industry. Employing a great team who all contribute to a vibrant company and to creating beautiful spaces that enhance the lives, homes and aspirations of our many clients – well that’s the aim anyway!

I would say to all of my contemporaries in the industry, it is our responsibility to enable the next generation to make the most of what we have worked hard to establish, to build on those foundations. After all, it is a pretty good industry, rewarding us financially and with job satisfaction. So, I encourage you to invest in the next generation and support them in accessing further education, not because you have or have not done it yourself, but because you know it is the right thing to do.

The next generation will be focused on different issues to those we have dealt with. They will need to move forward with the pressing issues of today, environmental challenges, societal changes and addressing inequality. And that’s before they get to the business end of things. We should be enabling the next generation to develop from a level much higher than our starting position, they can then take their knowledge, hone and refine it, and that will lead to further opportunities and development for the industry.

Education gives us the opportunity to learn and develop and in our sector be a part of something which is fulfilling, dynamic, and creative, as well as profitable and is part of a very important wider building industry.

All this leads me to the point where I find myself representing the industry in the pursuit of education as the chairman of The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET), which is the conduit between education and the industry. TKET has been established for five years and we have been instrumental in developing the Foundation degree at Bucks New University, which has also been running for five years. During this time, we have collaborated with the KBSA and FIESTA in establishing the level 3 technical assistant apprenticeship and are currently developing a level 6 Home and Kitchen Designer, an apprenticeship degree as a logical follow on from the foundation degree. Once these are in place, we will have formed a potential pathway from school lever, to degree level, and will aim to provide more diversity within the education levels.

So, if you – or any of your staff – would like the opportunity to improve your job prospects, become more confident and knowledgeable in the industry, or are looking for that initial opportunity to become part of a vibrant, inspirational work force, then sign up for the foundation degree. We are currently recruiting students for the forthcoming academic year starting at the end of September 2020. If you are interested in applying or need to know anything about the course please contact Jayne Cunnick on [email protected].

TKET also needs the support of the wider industry and if you believe in education and would like to support our efforts in developing a more professional industry through education please contact me [email protected]. We who are representing the industry need all the financial help we can get. Join the growing number of companies who are fulfilling their corporate responsibility like BSH, Blanco, Cosentino, Blum, LDL, Symphony, DecoGlaze and AEG to name a few.

Maybe it’s not just about luck at all. We must seize these opportunities when they present themselves. And maybe this is one for you.


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