Where would we be without training?

Damian Walters, chief executive of the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI), explains why a unified approach to training is the way forward

Q: What do you make of the kitchen industry and the standard of training? Are there still too many glorified salesmen and not enough proper designers?
A: That’s a tricky one… From a sales and design perspective, our inspectors see so many installation issues created by poor design.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t ‘installations’ firing a cheap shot at designers when things go wrong – because, equally, we see so many issues created by the installer. But it’s a simple fact that there is often a shortfall between an aesthetically pleasing design and one that is functional, technically up to the job and one that is perhaps forward-thinking.

I was recently at Blum’s headquarters and was pleased to see them considering the house of the future. I was impressed with the way they’d looked at new ways of planning and designing kitchens to meet the ever changing housing stock and the ever-evolving British consumer. Fact is, houses and lifestyles are changing and will continue to do so as space becomes an issue. The question is, therefore, what are we doing as an industry to address this?

Q: Is the kitchen design degree course a good idea or just a drop in the ocean so far as what’s needed?
A: I’m not opposed at all to degree training. This course will add some value to the future of design. However, what are we doing as an industry for the time-served salesperson or designer? How are we helping them develop their skills via CPD, for example.

Some of the problems that exist are created by the here and now, not by the designers of tomorrow. What practical training opportunities are available to a designer today?

Damian Walters
Damian Walters

Q: Where can training go from here? Who’s driving it, what more can be done? What direction should it be going in?
A: The problem is that training seems not to be a priority in this sales-driven industry. This may be the reason for the recent turbulence at the KBB NTG. What is needed is a unified approach to training and development within the industry. It needs to be led by someone dynamic who can drive positive change with new, fresh and holistic ideas. Easier said than done though!

Q: Can the KBSA really bring it all together and move things on?
A: I’d personally support any organisation that brought a credible training association to life. As for the KBSA, I wish them the very best of luck and offer them our support – as we always have. However, the retailer will drive education in the sector and the elephant in the room has got to be whether the KBSA reaches out to enough retailers in order to make a significant impact?

From our own experience at The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation, change will not be driven by a few hundred enthused members. It takes the collaborative force of thousands to make any sort of ripple in this huge industry pond.

Q: Is Uwe Hanneck the right man for the job?
A: Uwe comes with a wealth of industry experience, so I wouldn’t write him off just yet. His success will undoubtedly be the team he appoints to drive this. How important the NTG is to the KBSA and their own challenges is a question that only they can answer.

Q: Why have Renée Mascari and the NTG suddenly reappeared?
A: A question for Renée, I guess. Personally, I was incredibly disappointed to hear that the NTG had dissolved in the first place. Renée had worked hard in the past to try and make things work and I was most disappointed that the industry’s training organisation had ceased trading.

I know from personal experience that an organisation like ours MUST deliver benefit to its stakeholders and results to those who invest. Equally we cannot be surprised if it collapses if the benefit is not felt.

Q: Do commission-only pay structures further undermine the reputation of the KBB sector?
A: Sales positions generally favour commission-rich propositions, and I’m okay with that – as long as the salesperson is trained to deliver a great-looking, functional space that meets the lifestyle requirements of those investing in our industry.

  • For more on industry training and education, see the February issue of kbbreview
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