Bring more young people into our industry or we will fail, says Quooker MD

The skills gap – especially the installer shortage – has plagued the KBB industry for many years, but Quooker MD Stephen Johnson says the industry needs to wake up to this issue or it will fail.

Quooker has announced its support of the new KBB Fitted Interiors Apprentice Level 2 training course created by The British Institute of Kitchen Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI).

Johnson admits that he was unaware the realities of the installer skills gap, but through discussions with the CEO of the BiKBBI Damian Walters, now sees the importance of the problem. Johnson said: “It is absolutely essential that we bring more young people into our industry or we will fail.”

Appearing on The kbbreview Podcast with Walters, Johnson said: “I am slightly embarrassed and disappointed that I wasn’t alive to the problems that exist in our marketplace. I think the first thing I want to point out is that despite all the hard work we are doing now, we will not avoid this crisis. There is a skills gap; it exists, and all the work and effort we do now will resolve it, but it is a long-term job.

“At Quooker, we believe that we have a wider responsibility to support [the industry] wherever possible, and I realise that success depends on industries and brands uniting to do what they can. So, we are honoured and delighted to be involved with this crucial initiative to help grow and train the next generation of installers.”

Within the first week of the KBB Fitted Interiors Apprentice scheme, the BiKBBI already had 250 businesses showing interest, which equates to around 300 apprentices that could be entering the industry soon.

Walters is concerned that, despite the overall enthusiasm of both businesses who want to take apprentices and suppliers like Quooker who are willing to support  the scheme financially, the Government may cut funding if not enough people get involved. He said: “The Government has been clear with us that if we do not get behind this as an industry, and not put apprentices through this programme, they will withdraw funding immediately and give it to an industry that does want it.

“We are actually at a critical juncture here as we have done all the talking, and it is now time for action, and if we don’t do it, it will be taken away from us. Unfortunately, we don’t have a plan B, and there is no other way that we can solve this skills gap crisis.”

He continued: “We have created the solution and the service to support that solution the Government are funding it. But maybe it is now up to us as an industry to get behind it. The momentum isn’t going to come from governments – it can’t be the institute banging the drum and attempting to push water uphill. It has to be something that the industry has to embrace and takes upon itself to use the tools that are being provided for them.”

Johnson agrees and sees that the installer industry needs to be invested in and attract more young people. He explained: “We need to be investing in them. I want diversity in my installation team and as an industry, we need to deliver this. I think Damien’s approach of the scheme to do that is about bringing youth to the industry for the benefit of everyone.”

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