Let’s stop talking and do something

Craig Matson, MD of Roundhouse Design and chairman of The Kitchen Education Trust (TKET), responds to the issues raised in last month’s Training Special and says it is crucial to pass on our industry knowledge and experience

It’s brilliant that we’re discussing education. Our industry has next to no formal education and I feel passionately that we can only benefit from establishing coordinated educational pathways. We now have some momentum and the opportunity to pursue this.

With years of experience in a successful business, why do you need a qualification? Well, you probably don’t. Education is aimed more at the younger generation or career changers who will be the future industry.

The articles in kbbreview’s special feature [February, pgs 23-53] covered most of the issues. The value and benefits. What is currently available and future opportunities. I may not agree with all the contributors, but the important point is that this discussion is taking place.

As Blum UK sales and marketing director David Sanders said in his interview [pg 30]: “I’ve spoken to more people supporting training in the past year than I have in the past 20 years.” The world of work is changing and I believe that undertaking education and training alongside work experience is going to be a significant part of that change. We should take action now to be ahead of the game.

At a recent forum with representatives from the KBSA, TKET, Fira, The Furniture Makers Company (FMC) and a small group of industry representatives, we discussed many of these points. This group may not necessarily represent the entire kitchen industry, but we need to start somewhere. We discussed whether the recent Trailblazer application for Level 3 made by the FMC was something the kitchen industry would be interested in.

When I first got involved in the education sector, I too was baffled by its complexity and sometimes still am. So I will try to make it simple.

The new apprenticeship levy, referred to in the news story in that issue on page 7 and in Tony Smart’s article [pg26], is extremely important. It has the potential to create a coordinated education system, from school levers at GCSE level via apprenticeships, through to university degree level – a programme already established at Bucks New University.

This is a unique opportunity to come together and create an education system that will underpin the industry from within as well as in the perception of the public.

Most of the conversation on education is going on around the 15% of the market made up by independent studios. If we intend to make any impact, we need large kitchen multiples to be part of this, as well as independents. If we can create a cohesive group, we can have a voice within the broader KBB and furniture industry and be more influential when lobbying Government.

It is important to create established pathways to ensure that the next generation of employees, managers and owners, have the best foundation, encompassing both education and work experience. Great results can be, and have been, achieved through a combination of this type of blended learning. As James Herriot from Callerton Kitchens reminds us [pg24], why should we let the next generation make all the same mistakes we made? We should be passing on our knowledge to the next generation.

But why don’t we all just do our own thing? Well, that is one way, but it doesn’t create a universal standard. Every business has its own methodology and much of value can be learnt from individual models, but it needs to be a combination of best practice and established standards to create a universal standard.

At the moment, as a company you are completely self-funding any education programmes, whereas if we get involved at the early stage of the apprenticeship initiative, it could cost as little as 10% of the fees for training and education for individual students and/or companies.

It is rare that I meet resistance over education when I speak to the industry in my capacity with TKET. The big and the not-so-big players, are happy to put their hands in their pockets and support the trust. For that, I would like to thank Blum, Blanco, BSH, LDL, Decoglaze and CD (UK), Egger, Hettich, Miele, and the many independent studios who are putting students through the Foundation Degree at Bucks New University. This degree has made it possible to focus on the needs of the industry and allowed us to identify where the training needs are.

But we need to stop talking about it in meetings and do something. As the first step, we are going to make it really easy.

The Kitchen Industry Education Initiative 2017 sets out how to move forward as a consolidated group. We ask everyone, companies or individuals, to sign up. It is purely designed to get people on board and show that we are acting as one when we move forward to have a say about our needs for education at government level.

We are proposing to get interested parties together at the beginning of May this year, so please sign, scan and email your support to [email protected] by the end of March.

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