Wickes launches installer apprenticeship to help close industry skills gap crisis

Wickes has launched a new apprenticeship scheme for installers at a time when many in the industry are forecasting a disaster if we do not act now to close the skills gap.

Acknowledging the need for more skilled installers, the home-improvement retailer said it was acting now to introduce the scheme. It also highlighted concerns that the current generation of installers that is getting older and that changes in EU legislation may have an impact on the availability of tradespeople.

Heightened demand thanks to the coronavirus epidemic has meant, according to a survey by Wickes, that more than three-quarters of tradespeople (77%) have more or the same amount of work.

Following what was a successful pilot run, the apprenticeship scheme proper will start on January 25 next year.

Wickes is fully funding 48 apprentice places during 2021 and they will be part of the company’s Approved Installer Network. The first intake of eight will start on January 25 next year and applications are now open for the remaining places. The company said the scheme is open to anyone, not just young adults.

Commenting on the new scheme, Wickes installations director Tony Brown said: “We’re giving back and supporting the industry we know well through our Approved Installer Network. Installation of kitchens is a very skilled job, and we want to invest in people to help close any skills gap.

“There are many great careers to be had in this industry and opportunities for people in a sector that can be flexible around them or give them the opportunity to create a small business. I am proud that we’re able to offer such a unique programme like this, we know the industry needs more skilled tradespeople and we hope this is just the beginning of a very successful and long-running programme.”

During their 18 months on the scheme, apprentices will spend 80% of their time on-site with an installer. The rest will be formal training, which will cover trade and life skills, held in seven block weeks at Nottingham-based WEBS Training. This includes modules on fitting a kitchen, behaviour, customer services and setting up your own business.

Michael Hales, one of the installation apprentices on the pilot intake, said: “I’m currently halfway through the scheme, and I can say that this apprenticeship is truly one of a kind. It’s allowed me to gain new skills and confidence for my future career. I feel privileged to be part of this scheme, and it has given me an opportunity of a lifetime to be hands-on. Everything from the course, including the onsite WEBS training centre, is outstanding, I had never heard of an apprenticeship like this before, even my friends are jealous of what I am doing and how supported I am through the programme.

“I feel excited to see what the future brings as I can see myself with my own van, tools and apprentice – carrying on kitchen fitting for the rest of my career. I really appreciate the opportunity that’s been given to me by Wickes.”

Wickes said that in future it would like to provide tools for all the apprentices to help them set up their own businesses and help provide “a well-rounded and compelling local installation proposition for customers”.

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