A peek behind the curtain

F OR the purposes of this article, I’d like to tell you about a few things we’re working on behind the scenes. Here’s a quick look ‘behind the curtain’, into our virtual lab or product development department at things we’re progressing and hope to bring to members in the coming months.

First, it’s important to mention how we’ll communicate these things when complete. In fact, for members of the CFA, we have various channels – one of the most popular being the CFA’s monthly email update.
A sort of monthly digital newsletter, it contains information across a broad range of subjects and is designed to have content that is of interest to all four of our main membership categories: contractors, distributors, manufacturers and consultants.

Regular features include a mention of companies that have applied or recently joined, events that are taking place under a ‘dates for the diary’ section and a lot of other relevant information in areas such as training, qualifications, environmental, economic, standards and technical information.

We send only one of these a month and so don’t clutter inboxes with dribbled information and it’s available to as many or few people within a member organisation as is wanted.

Members just have to register email addresses with us and they’re automatically added to the circulation.

In addition to the email update, we also have the members area of the CFA website where many of the things exclusive to members are held in our digital vaults.

Again, if you’re a member of the CFA, as many people within your organisation as you like can be given access via a username and password. If you’d like to add people, use the contact details below to let us know and we will get things organised very quickly.

A good example of something added to the members area of the CFA website recently is the datasheet version of all the sections of the new CFA Guide to Contract Flooring.

A fantastic way to help clients understand what you’re recommending in areas such as moisture measurement or application of a surface DPM, and all with the independence of the CFA to help justify your specification.

And there’s a new version of the CFA’s health and safety policy template for contractors hot off the press and ready to be used. Beyond these members-only channels, we also communicate more widely using the newsfeed on our website and actively post tweets on our twitter account @CFA_Association.

But you must be member to get at the really valuable stuff or to get it first. Last but not least, CFJ is another way we communicate with the wider industry, and as with this article, provides us with a way to help keep members and those with an interest in what we do, updated.

So, what’s under development at the moment?

Mick O’Flynn and I have been keeping you up to date with developments on the Trailblazer apprenticeship standard front and I cannot stress enough how much work is being undertaken by the chairman, Alan Gayle, his employer group and - in our support role - the CFA.

I’m confident by the time you read this article they/we will have reached the first milestone of getting a Trailblazer standard approved. But that is in fact only a third or halfway along the process. The next steps are to agree the training plan for colleges and providers to deliver and develop an end-point assessment and then for the whole thing to be costed and a funding figure agreed with government.

That’s maybe another 12 months’ work if we crack on.

We’re keeping close tabs on the economic situation and how Brexit is affecting things in this and the broader sense. At a recent manufacturers’ meeting, Jeff May the marketing and communication manager for the CPA gave the group an insight, through their views on the economic climate and forecast of what might happen.

Bear in mind that ‘might’ and ‘could’ are oft-used words at the moment. Uncertainty isn’t unique to flooring or construction but there were some interesting facts and figures quoted by Jeff that I’m sure those present will have taken away to help their businesses navigate through the current challenges.

Some are general, but some in more specific areas such as housing, office refurbishment, private and sector projects that I saw people were scribbling down.

Jeff’s full presentation and further economic information is available through the members area, but we’re also in discussion about developing something more specific for members with CPA. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on that one.

Linking across those two subject areas is work on labour shortages. CFA members will all be aware that we’ve been carrying out our annual members return.

These are a set of questions designed to ensure we can be confident members continue to meet our quality standards, but also a way to reach out and try to understand what’s keeping members awake at night.

Questions around payment and retention feature and will help us keep the pressure up with research-based argument. Another area of questions is around labour or perhaps more simply put, labour shortages.

Brexit throws all sorts of challenges at us and the national debate on EU workers and whether they’ll be allowed to remain in the EU post-Brexit is an area the CPA and CFA are monitoring.

CPA claims many housebuilders employ up to 70% of EU nationals and curiously enough I have similar anecdotal evidence in terms of percentage figures for EU workers in the flooring sector on larger London-based projects.

As I write this, we’re yet to fully analyse our survey, but I can share that many members when asked if they could use more labour to satisfy demand, claimed they could.
In fact, across all CFA contractors, they outline a requirement for more than 750 trained fitters in addition to their current workforce.

I’m in discussion with various senior people about how we might have further positive effect on this. Let’s face it, it is a supply chain problem as much as a contractor problem.

Add these factors together and you can perhaps understand why the CFA is active and why Mrs May’s opening offer to allow more than more than three million EU nationals living in the UK to stay permanently after Brexit was, we feel, welcome and a positive move for flooring.

That’s not to say, as our work on apprenticeships and more generally the training we do directly through Fita shows, we don’t recognise the need and advantages of creating homegrown talent and perhaps more importantly, robust and structured ways that a variety of people can enter the flooring industry with training and access to qualifications.

That’s why we worked hard in Scotland recently to secure the skills test which was under threat, and why we’re continuing to contribute to a wider review of other areas including the role of the registration bodies.
With more direct industry relevance, we’re now focusing more support towards the update of BS5325, which hasn’t been reviewed since 2001 and so naturally needs attention.

Following on from work on BS8203 and the Guide to Contract Flooring, this will bring more credibility and support for the sort of quality work CFA members are synonymous with.

As members, if you want an updated copy of any of the British Standards, the CFA is able to obtain them for you with an additional 5% discount.

Finally, in this brush across the top of some major areas of activity, we hope to have our new marketing person in place soon. Plans for a fairly major refurb at Fita are well underway as is ongoing work at the CFA offices towards a ‘less paper’ digital approach to daily activity and archiving.

There’s clearly plenty to get on with and some important and exciting areas of support and development for members to gain value from.
0115 9411126
Richard Catt is ceo of the CFA