Lack of apprentice uptake a ‘tragedy’ says BiKBBI boss

The KBB industry is failing in its direct support of apprentices, despite significant action by providers, says BiKBBI chief executive Damian Walters.

Speaking in his opening address at today’s BiKBBI Conference in London, Walters outlined the work done in establishing new dedicated apprenticeship schemes but said the initiatives “lacked industry uptake”.

But, he said, less than 100 new apprentices have joined the industry.

“[This] is an absolute tragedy, considering the skills gap calamity we find ourselves in as an industry,” he said. “Less than 100 new apprentices… is nothing short of a travesty. It’s not good enough and there’s no point in us pretending otherwise.

“Our industry coming together and creating a fit-for-purpose solution to our long-term skills gap challenge is the equivalent of us building a life raft for people stranded at sea, but no one is getting on board, because they’re too busy taking selfies with circling sharks.”

The BiKBBI has put a focus on bringing new blood into the industry and has established an Education Steering Committee in the last year. It has played a key role in delivering the Level 2 Fitted Furniture Installer Apprenticeship and a new standalone Apprenticeship Standard for Fitted Interiors.

This is the framework that, Walters said, is being underused. 

“I know we’re all busy and businesses must prioritise their focus on a number of challenges, internally as well as externally, but we have a robust vehicle for futureproofing the problem and we’re not using it.

“I know the Government has much to do in supporting SMEs, in particular, to embrace apprenticeships, but we can’t wait forever, and we must come together and act now to avoid calamity.”

• The BiKBBI Conference is being held today (February 6) at the QEII Centre in Westminster in London.

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