The national shortage of professional installers is “one of the most significant challenges” ever faced by the KBB sector, according to the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI).
Releasing plans to tackle the crisis, which many retailers have said is severely affecting their ability to take full advantage of the post-lockdown consumer demand, the BiKBBI said the industry must “unite now or risk future catastrophe”.
The BiKBBI is calling on the entire industry, including suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers, to actively support much needed change by completing an online pledge- found at www.supportchange.org.uk.
The organisation plans on approaching the challenge in what it calls a “three-pronged-attack” including Apprenticeships, professional development and re-training.
Pulling no punches in his assessment of the current situation, BiKBBI CEO Damian Walters says the double-whammy of Brexit and Covid-19 have made a very serious problem exponentially worse.
“The skills gap was already a crisis before we faced these latest challenges,” he said. “This problem will not correct itself, nor is anyone else focused on fixing it. The challenge is ours and one we must all face if we want to avoid a disaster like none faced by our industry before.”
BiKBBI confirmed that its plans are split into three key areas – apprenticeships, training and re-training – and each included within a strategy to address the short, medium- and long-term recovery from the skills gap.
Apprenticeships have formed a key part of the plan for the last five years, however, BiKBBI says it is forming a national network of training providers to collaboratively develop, promote and deliver the Level 2 Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship from the 2021 academic year.
This follows a successful trial at Prospects College of Advanced Technology (PROCAT) in Essex.
The organisation also plans a ‘Big Red Bus Tour’ – taking the industry directly to primary and secondary schools, promoting both the apprenticeship programme and wider opportunities that lie within the industry.
The second strand of BiKBBI’s plan is Learning & Development. Earlier this year, the institute launched ‘BiKBBI Campus’ – an online training portal that works predominantly with suppliers and manufacturers to deliver technical training to members and the wider industry.
BiKBBI Campus director Mark Parish said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support for Campus so far, but we need more manufacturers to get on board and deliver training through the platform. We’re seeing learner numbers increase as many used lockdown to improve skills for themselves and colleagues.”
And the final part of BiKBBI’s plan is retraining. Earlier this year BiKBBI confirmed that it had signed The Armed Forces Covenant – a pledge to work with the Armed Forces Community by utilising some of the easily transferable skills that some former servicemen and women can bring to the industry.
The strategic alliance has already included working with The Ministry of Defence as well as other organisations and charities, with an objective of plugging some of the skills gaps with disciplined, professional trades.
However, BiKBBI confirmed that it could not realise these ambitious plans without support from the industry and it is making an urgent appeal to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers to pledge support immediately.
Walters said: “Without support there will be no solution. No one else is leading a robust and achievable plan focused on installation, but without support and funding, this will not happen.”
Anyone can register interest in supporting with an online pledge at www.supportchange.org.uk