It’s happening…

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By Damian Walters, BIKBBI CEO:

The inevitable annual scramble to secure pre-Christmas installation availability was unaffected by the UK’s lockdown this year. People still want kitchens and bathrooms and they want them now!

However for the first time in my 22 year career, we’re seeing installer availability pushed well into the New Year, with some installers quoting the earliest availability as far ahead as April 2021.

I think it’s fair to say that pent up demand from a nation of people with a new found love for their homes (and holiday money burning holes in their pockets) may very well be a significant contributory factor, but the underlying issue here is that there are simply not enough installers to meet consumer demand – and there hasn’t been for some time.

Whilst Brexit now feels like a good problem to have in comparison, it’s realisation in a few short weeks will not help this critical situation, as the government push ahead with an unrealistic, qualification led points system for European migration. This approach may work for careers that revolve around formal qualification, ‘keeping out’ unskilled migrants, but is a real blocker for time served European tradespeople with an appetite to get their hands dirty within a vocational career.

Now, there is the argument that securing jobs for Brits is the winner in all of this, but if there aren’t enough native British people interested in a vocational career, the widening gap between resource and demand simply becomes an opportunity… and where there’s opportunity, soon follows opportunists.

When the opportunists arrive, reputation is at risk… think double glazing in the 80’s and more recently, renewable energy – so if you’re a Brit tradesperson rubbing your hands at the prospect of a full order book, all may not be as it seems… because a poor industry reputation affects everyone (including the good guys)!

A lack of vocational learning in secondary education is the real reason we’re in this mess and it’s something that needs to change fast. As woodwork classrooms were replaced with IT suites in the 80’s and 90’s, we’re missing a generation of tradespeople and the subsequent gap is now biting this industry (& others).

There’s no magic pill that will solve this and there is no government strategy to fix our issue. It’s our industry, our problem and therefore it’s up to us to solve this… how?
Well, it’s not rocket science. Apprenticeships, apprenticeships, apprenticeships. They’re now more important than ever and we’re working hard to solve the challenge.

Watch this space.

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