‘The kbb industry needs to be seen as more professional’

Craig Matson, the chairman of The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET), on why the industry needs to raise its standards and why TKET’s Apprenticeship Degree for the Living Spaces Industry is a step in the right direction.

As an industry, we need to be seen to be more professional in the eyes of the public. As far as I can see, the best way of doing this is for those in the industry to be better informed about all aspects of the industry itself. 

Some will say, ‘well, we already train our staff’, but that’s not the same as having a broad foundation of industry education, and I would wager that this is the exception rather than the rule. 

Many companies provide their employees with just enough information to begin selling, rather than providing them with a full understanding of why and what they need to do in order to design, sell, manufacture, install and provide after-sales services professionally.

As the MD of kitchen company Roundhouse, I was recently asked by a group of journalists if we charged for our design service. The answer to that is no. This isn’t because we don’t warrant charging, but because in the eyes of the consumer I don’t believe the industry appears to be professional enough to justify charging. 

Consequently, if we did charge, I feel we would be putting ourselves at a disadvantage to our competition. We should be charging, and if the industry was viewed as being more professional, I’m sure we all could.

Over the past 10 years, as chairman of The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET) I’ve been raising awareness about the level of education for the living spaces industry with limited success. We helped establish the Foundation Degree in Kitchen Design at Bucks New University, which, although it was very successful in its approach and its outcomes for those students who attended, it needed to be heavily subsidised by the industry. 

These subsidies were not supplied by those who particularly benefited most by the initiative (those selling kitchens), but instead by the supporting elements of the industry, such as appliance and fittings companies. It was pretty clear to me that the industry was not used to, or prepared to, pay for educating their staff.

As a consequence, we embarked on the creation of an Apprenticeship Degree for the Living Spaces Industry. It has been a long, challenging process, which I’m sure will come as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with a process that requires government approval. We are aiming to get the standard and assessment plan approved imminently, as you will see if you go to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s website at www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/living-and-commercial-spaces-designer.

The important thing about this is that the cost for those who embark on the degree will be approximately 10% of the course cost, which we estimate will equate to around £500 a year if you are not paying into the apprenticeship levy and will be cost-free if you are paying the levy. 

The apprentice will receive a combination of education based around workplace experience and tertiary-level education. The degree is a four-year commitment, and those taking part will need to be employed within the industry. The course will primarily be a distance-learning course with three short, intense extended weekends throughout the year.

We hope to have the first-year sign-ups available for this coming academic year in September.

Once established, I hope that the industry will embrace this golden opportunity to advance its professional image, and the past 10 years of TKET’s mission to link the industry with education will be worthwhile. 

If you are interested in registering your interest, please contact [email protected]

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