The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation is delighted to announce specialist sealant and bonding manufacturer CT1 as its latest corporate sponsor, supporting the government sanctioned organisation and its work on building a sustainable workforce and improving education, standards, compliance and sustainability in the KBB installation sector.

With its entire range proudly Made in Britain with British design and unique TRIBRID® Technology CT1 specialises in developing high quality products providing superior sealing and bonding solutions for Britain’s installation sector with brands including CT1, BT1, Miracle Seal and Superfast Plus. Leaders in research and development, the company was the first to bring a Hybrid Polymer to market 20 years ago. With ongoing technological innovations CT1 has proudly introduced the revolutionary and environmentally complaint TRIBRID® Sealant and Adhesive Technology that delivers extraordinary effective applications and cost-efficient results.

Nicola Walsh, Director of Sales and Marketing at CT1 commented ‘CT1 is delighted to partner with BiKBBI and develop further the many synergies between our two forward thinking organisations who are delivering positive change and the best solutions for the installation sector. Together we are focused on raising industry standards and compliance through providing superior products, advice and technical support to the UK’s dedicated trades people.’

BiKBBI CEO, Damian Walters said ‘The work that we are doing is fundamental to the future of the KBB installation sector and therefore it is vital that we have the support of the wider industry – after all, every KBB manufacturer, supplier, distributor and retailer is reliant on installation at some point in the cycle. We are thrilled to welcome CT1 onboard as a corporate sponsor. It is great to have another well-known and established brand supporting the work that we are doing to drive positive change in the KBB installation sector through our focus on education, standards, compliance and sustainability. We very much look forward to working with the team at CT1.’

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation today announced the launch of the BiKBBI Education Steering Committee as part of its ongoing strategy to build a sustainable workforce of the future for the KBB installation sector.

As the only government-sanctioned organisation dedicated to kitchen, bedroom and bathroom installation, the institute represents thousands of installation businesses and installers nationwide and, furthermore, has established and nurtured relationships with a wide network of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers and other stakeholders within the KBB industry throughout its history.

BiKBBI is now using its network to form the BiKBBI Education Steering Committee (ESC), the purpose of which is to assemble stakeholders, advisors and sector specialists to determine the direction of the organisation in the development and support of education within the KBB installation sector. The ESC will facilitate debate on important issues facing the sector, define areas of focus in line with industry needs, identify goals and objectives and provide an effective forum for decision-making, and will primarily concentrate on apprenticeships, CPD and retraining.

The committee consists of a Committee Chairperson and ten committee members and was assembled via a targeted recruitment process, ensuring representation from all areas of the sector, and all committee members possess the required skill, experience and enthusiasm to drive positive change. The ESC chair will be Hannah Hockley from TAP, BiKBBI’s appointed apprenticeships partner. Board members include Tom Reynolds (BMA), Jerry Whiteley (CiPHE), Lisa Williamson (Achieve + Partners), Barry Moss (LEAP), Andy Rayner (Travis Perkins), Stephen Johnson (Quooker), Emma Leech (Howdens), Carl Terlecki (Terlecki Limited), Kerry Wilson (BMF) and Rebecca Bertram-Smith (The Furniture Maker’s Company).

Damian Walters, CEO of BiKBBI commented ‘With an aging workforce and declining numbers of compliant installation specialists, our industry faces an unprecedented challenge. For many years our focus has been firmly on education and the development of a sustainable pipeline of professional installers for the future. As such, we collaborated with key strategic partners to build a modern, fit-for-purpose apprenticeship programme for fitted interiors and we also launched the BiKBBI employer support service in 2021. But there is still much to do to deliver the workforce to meet demands of the future, both in terms of numbers and standards, and education, learning and development should be at the top of the agenda for all stakeholders – ultimately, how we handle the current skills gap will impact all areas of the industry.

The creation of the BiKBBI Education Steering Committee is the next level of collaboration for BiKBBI, as we create a forum for all areas of the industry to discuss, debate and decide on key topics that will work towards solving the mounting skills gap crisis and build a legacy to ensure a sustainable workforce for the future.’

The shortfall in the number of skilled installers able to meet consumer demand is something that BiKBBI has long highlighted as a major issue for our industry. For many years we have been warning of the consequences of not investing in efforts to bring new people into installation, and over the last three to four years we have unfortunately seen some of those consequences come in to effect.

To put it bluntly, there are not enough skilled installers ready to meet consumer demand for KBB installation. This is not only bad news for customers but is bad for all businesses that have a vested interest in the KBB industry, whether that be manufacturers, distributors, retailers, designers or indeed installation businesses. Aside from not having competent and compliant installers available when needed, skills gaps, by their very nature, create opportunities and sadly, opportunities often attract opportunists – and we all know the risk that unscrupulous opportunists present to industries like ours.

In the recent Spring Budget, the Government went some way to addressing this challenge by announcing that construction workers are to be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), paving the way for employers to sponsor workers from overseas.

Whilst this initiative offers a potentially useful short-term fix to KBB businesses specifically operating within construction, or for those employing installers in a PAYE capacity, this does nothing for most of the retrofit market, sub-contracted relationships or consumers wanting to connect with installation SMEs directly. The relaxation of visa rules will not deliver the much-needed KBB installation enterprise to the UK, nor will it do much to gain back the sheer loss of labour that disappeared back home post Brexit, or replenish the labour that grew old, retired, and left the industry.

The government needs to tread carefully with the visa initiative. Foreign workers will bring much-needed skills and capacity, but employers need to consider language barriers, cultural differences, existing UK standards and legislation, as well as potential issues related to workers’ rights and general labour standards. Employers hiring foreign workers through visa programs should ensure that they comply with all applicable labour laws and regulations and provide adequate support and training to help foreign workers integrate into the local workforce – but remember, this is only applicable to employed labour – for those who sub-contract, it is not even an option.

It is also the case that relying on overseas workers is not a long-term solution to the skills gap crisis, with changes in immigration policies or economic conditions likely to impact the availability of foreign workers over time. To ensure the long-term health of our industry we need to keep the focus on investing in training a new generation of home-grown installers.

The ‘perfect storm’ situation that we are in, caused by a long-term lack of investment in vocational careers/apprenticeships, Brexit, and the pandemic, has been a wakeup call for many and the metaphorical equivalent of the plaster being ripped off the festering wound. Simply parachuting labour in short term will simply place a fresh plaster on what is a real problem.

That is why BiKBBI is committed to keeping up the momentum with its ground-breaking apprenticeship programme and support package. And it is why the industry needs to get behind it as a matter of urgency.

The Level 3 Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship has been available for some years now, and shortly after its launch, BiKBBI identified several blockages that ran the risk of the qualification failing before it had even been established. In response, BiKBBI launched its Skills+ service in October 2021 – a set of solutions that brought together a network of approved training providers with a wider package of support that enabled installers to take on apprentices without having to deal with some of the more complex elements associated with taking on an apprentice; recruitment, employment and training complications.

Thanks to a promotional campaign made possible via support from BiKBBI corporate sponsors, accelerated by a sizable investment from Quooker, the demand from prospective apprentices was incredible, with more than 300 applicants showing an interest in KBB installation careers.

However, thus far the number of installation businesses stepping forward to take on an apprentice has been disappointing. This is where the real problem now exists, despite the misconception that the ‘TikTok generation’ are not interested in getting their hands dirty – which simply is not true.

Even with a high demand for work and a simple, low-cost route to take on an apprentice, not enough installers are stepping up. There are probably a few reasons why, from a reluctance to take on additional wage commitments to a lack of understanding about the value of apprentices. As an industry, we all need to think about how these challenges can be overcome.

No idea should be off limits. For example, could retailers somehow share the financial burden of paying apprentice wages? Could a retailer incentivise its workforce to embrace the building of a future generation of installers? Could more major suppliers join the likes of Quooker to help promote the benefits of apprentices and how our scheme helps with recruiting and managing them? And could the Government introduce tax incentives, or adaptions to the Levy framework, that recognise the commitment of small installation businesses that do invest in apprenticeships?

These are the types of questions our industry should be asking of itself to ensure that we have a sustainable future. We need to see no stone left unturned in encouraging installation businesses to grasp the opportunity to expand their business as well as helping to develop the talent of the future.

In June 2023, BiKBBI will be increasing its focus on learning and development. BiKBBI Futures will present a number solutions, housed in one place, to aid industry adoption. It will outline a three-pronged strategy focused on apprenticeships, CPD and retraining, with apprenticeships being simplified further to help installers understand the benefits in greater detail.

BiKBBI CEO, Damian Walters commented ‘BiKBBI has been vocal on the subject of the skills shortage for over a decade, and I have been clear about the role the institute can play in helping the industry help itself. Now is the time for the whole sector to step up and I invite every single business in the sector to get in touch to find out how they can get involved.’

The Installer Magazine, Spring 2023 Edition is out now and is full of great insight, news, views and all things relevant to the modern KBB installer.

It’s been another busy time since the last issue and this edition covers a lot of ground, including:

– Triton Showers welcomed on board as Corporate Sponsor

– Spring Budget – What it means to installers

– Chris Richards, Installer of the Year winner

– Carl Terleki – BiKBBI member feature

– State of the Industry – Results from the BiKBBI survey

– Plus much more


Click here to read the Spring 2023 Edition

A recent survey commissioned and published by the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation has revealed growing consumer interest in sustainability and sustainable supply chains for home improvement work. However, this positive outlook sits alongside increased concerns over rising operating costs, combined with slow economic growth, confusion about apprenticeships, and a lack of government support for KBB business owners.

The research project, which targeted KBB installation businesses and installers and took place across December 2022 and January 2023, consisted of 10 questions covering key topics including the economy, the skills gap and sustainability, and revealed:

When asked about sustainability and whether the industry does enough to reduce its environmental impact, one third of those surveyed think there is more to be done, whilst almost 50% think the industry is doing enough which shows there is still work to be done in this area. Installers continue to have influence with consumers on their purchasing decisions, with 31% of respondents reporting an increase in customers asking for advice when it comes to environmentally friendly solutions. BiKBBI feels it is a clear sign that the industry needs to engage the installer population further on education around sustainable products and practises as they are in a prime position to promote sustainable decisions.

Turning to the economy, with the industry already severely impacted by the growing skills gap, the BiKBBI survey reinforced that more needs to be done to support the thousands of KBB installation businesses across the UK. The rising costs of running a business amid a financial downturn are of key concern; with bills going up it is particularly worrying for KBB installation businesses to see the economy and consumer spending continuing to fall. Over 40% felt there was a downturn in incoming business and over 60% of those surveyed were very concerned or concerned about their business this year.

Moreover, 80% of those surveyed said they felt the government needs to give more support to small businesses, whilst 60% said they were considering moving to a different industry, with 40% citing financial gain as an underlying reason for this.

Despite a growth in apprenticeship opportunities in the UK, the survey highlights that installation business owners are still not accessing this vital tool to help address the UK skills gap. Business owners are concerned about red tape, the expense and the process. BiKBBI pledges to continue to champion apprenticeships and support KBB businesses, but calls on the government to do more to support business owners and empower them to train the next generation with modern apprenticeships.

Damian Walters, Chief Executive of BiKBBI, said: ‘The outputs from the survey clearly demonstrate the areas of focus for the institute in terms of supporting our members. It is encouraging to see the demand for more education on the topic of sustainability and we will now work with our stakeholders to provide tools to assist installation businesses to promote environmentally motivated products, services and practices to consumers.

The scale of concern in the KBB installation sector on the subject of the economy is not surprising, I think it would be remiss of any business to not have some level of concern, considering the challenges we have faced and those that are yet to come. What is surprising is the volume of our existing workforce that would be prepared to leave the industry. Ordinarily, this would be concerning, but whilst we are in the midst of a deep-seated skills gap crisis, this would be catastrophic for the home improvement sector and demonstrates why it is crucial that businesses dependent on an installation function support the work of the BiKBBI in order to drive positive change and build a sustainable future workforce.’

View full survey results here.