Dire warning issued as half of KBB installers to retire by 2030

A senior manager from Wickes has warned that the KBB industry will shortly face a mass exodus of installers, as approximately half of the installer workforce is likely to retire in the next five years.

Speaking at the British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI)’s annual conference last week, Connie Collett, senior leader of apprenticeship schemes at Wickes, made the stark warning during a panel on apprenticeships and the current skills crisis.

Collett cautioned that the industry shouldn’t ignore the issue of installers retiring without younger professionals to fill their places. She said: “We should not underestimate our installer population. Their knowledge is absolutely key. However, 50% of our installer population will retire at some point over the next five years – and that’s across the board, not just us as a retailer.

“If you look at the ageing population within our installer network, most installers are talking about retiring before that time. I think we could really fall short as an industry if we’re not cautious. The installer network we work with has got a wealth of knowledge, and if we don’t tap into that knowledge, it will just disappear.”

Collett suggested that as part of encouraging apprenticeships, older and more experienced installers should seriously consider passing on their skills to the next generation entering the industry.

She explained: “Installers underestimate the power they have with their knowledge. When we talk to installers, they don’t necessarily feel like they have the skills or patience to pass their knowledge on to an apprentice. There are installers out there who could absolutely do this, but they don’t realise that they could. We’ve got to try and coach those installers and support that as well.”

Speaking at the conference, Damian Walters, chief executive of BiKBBI, said that Collett’s prediction about installer retirement painted a concerning picture for the future of the industry.

In a comment to kbbreview, Walters added: “This is an incredibly worrying situation that the entire industry needs to wake up to. Five years will pass in the blink of an eye and we should all be asking ourselves the question: ‘who will be fitting our product in 2029?’

“This is by no means a Wickes problem, so we must not sit back and say it’s their problem. This statistic is indicative of our market globally, so unless we fix the issue now, we won’t have the opportunity to do so later.”

In related news, BiKBBI’s recent annual survey found that more KBB installers than ever admitted to considering leaving their industry, with 66% saying they could be tempted to take their skills to other industries.

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