Craig Matson, chairman of The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET), on why expanding the industry’s reach in education is more important than ever
Q: Why is training and education so important to the future of the KBB industry?
A: The basic fact is that the field in which we are all involved is much more complicated now. There’s so much more to understand about kitchen design. The range of different materials and product types is bigger than ever and our clients are much savvier, which means we need to be able to give them a professional service. That level of service is sometimes lacking, especially if you don’t have a professional background and really understand what that all means.
And that’s because, although we’re predominantly still talking about the kitchen industry here, that’s actually not all we’re working on in most cases. We tend to all be working on projects that affect or include the entire downstairs of the property – often combining the kitchen, dining room and living spaces. The result is that kitchen spaces are becoming more diverse.
Q: What about experience though, doesn’t that count for a lot?
A: Of course, experience covers a lot of it, but we’re top-heavy with people that have the experience and we need pass that on to new generations of kitchen designers.
To those thinking, ‘I’ve already got loads of experience, why do I need a qualification?’, this isn’t about you. This isn’t about those of us who have already built a successful career in the industry – this is about the next generation.
By creating a course that gives them the answers to so many questions, and giving them a foundation of knowledge and understanding, we’re allowing them to get on with the next stage of developing a bigger, better and more professional industry.
We should be enabling the next generation to develop from a level much higher than our starting position, so they can then take their knowledge, hone and refine it, and that will lead to further opportunities and development for the industry.
Q: What formal and training education options already exist?
A: TKET has been established for five years and we have been instrumental in developing the Foundation Degree at Bucks New University. During this time, we have collaborated with the KBSA and the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance (Fiesta) in establishing the level three technical assistant apprenticeship and are currently developing a level six Home and Kitchen Designer appren-ticeship degree as a logical follow-on from the foundation degree.
This a major break-through as it is a full degree but, because it is Government-funded, the fees are a fraction of the cost of the foundation degree course, which breaks down some huge barriers to further education. By its definition, an apprenticeship requires you have a job, so t will be a blended learning programme – a mixture of work experience and academic study. I really hope that with this course we can change the way the industry views education.
We hope to have it ready for the first intake in October 2021.
Q: What does the industry need to do to support training and education more?
A: People can continue to sleepwalk through the industry in its current state or they can wake up and join us in creating a dynamic, exciting industry that smart, intelligent young people actually see as an opportunity to get on a real career path.
Education and training are about broadening the horizons of the industry and it is our responsibility to enable the next generation to make the most of what we have worked hard to establish and build on those foundations. So, I encourage them 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 financial backing we get already from our sponsors – brands that see the real value in having professional, well-educated people in the industry – is fantastic, but we need more of it. There are a number of big brands out there, including kitchen companies and national retailers, that should be supporting us in developing these courses as well.
It’s also about encouraging smaller businesses to support what we’re doing by actually enrolling their staff on the course. It will only succeed if it gets students. Simple as that.
Q: TKET and Fiesta have made huge inroads into carving out a professional education and training pro–gramme. Could the pan–demic halt that momentum?
A: Of course, we don’t want to lose that momentum. We’ve achieved so much already and the requirement for raising standards and prof-essionalism through formal qualifications and education won’t go away. What we’ve already got in place [the foundation degree in kitchen design] and what we’re currently developing [the home, kitchen and living space designer apprenticeship degree] is the short-term plan. The long-term aim is to offer smaller modules that enable people to gain a qualification in specific aspects of the industry.
For more information go to The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET) website, www.tket.co.uk