Now that was a busy year!

Garry Bateman reflects on his first year serving as President of the CFA.

WHEN I was voted in as CFA president for a two-year duration back in May 2018, it was a great honour to be acknowledged by my flooring trade peers. It’s a role that still excites me, even after a full year in office, but I must admit, even I am amazed at the diversity and number of things we have worked on!

I should add that I am a willing work-horse and while the CFA and Richard benefit from involvement from the president, I am of course free to pick and choose what I do. Obviously fitting my new CFA responsibilities in with my day job at Forbo Flooring as head of technical sales and support, needed to be sorted and I said that I wanted my tenure to be as hands-on as possible to support the excellent work of the CFA. So Forbo Flooring and my colleagues have been great at providing support and encouragement to allow me to engage with CFA activities as much as possible. It is a case of carefully planning diary events to make best use of time as living on the Sussex coast with CFA work focussed around the Midlands can be a little challenging at times. On the flip side, I have certainly become more acquainted with and accustomed to train timetables and working in waiting rooms and coffee bars.

With over 37 years in the flooring industry, it is a real privilege to be able to use my varied experience to the benefit of the flooring trade and to hopefully make a positive difference. With an acknowledged shortage of skilled labour in the whole of the construction industry, the flooring trade also needs to focus and re-group in terms of training and apprenticeships, so my presidential themes of ‘excellence and training’ are fully in line with current needs.

As part of the training support, I was able to arrange for the dormant linoleum training facility at Forbo Flooring’s head office in Kirkcaldy to be refreshed and put into use once again to support the requirement for a northern training centre for FITA. I am pleased to say that several successful courses covering a varied number of products have been held in the revamped training facility. This makes training more accessible to our north of England and Scottish flooring contractors and works well in tandem with courses at the main FITA training centre in Loughborough.

So, it was a real pleasure to congratulate Jordan Gayle, from AG Flooring Ltd, Manchester, as CFA/CFJ Flooring Apprentice of the Year 2018. Jordan received a cheque for £1000 and an array of super prizes including a free linoleum fitting course at FITA to encourage continued skills learning. The linoleum courses are something I championed with FITA as this long-established product needs to be fully appreciated and understood by those new to trade. It also nicely rounds off the resilient sheet installation courses provision by FITA.

As CFA president I chair the CFA council meetings and support other core CFA groups. An ongoing part of my remit is to support the CFA CEO, Richard Catt, which, I believe, has proven very helpful at a time of change.

I guess that the biggest challenge for the CFA council to address so far during my presidency has been membership of Build UK - there were definite divisions of opinion within the CFA council which resulted in a casting vote by the chairman (myself) to decide which way to go. So, having retained membership, my stated desire was to be as active as possible with Build UK events and meetings. This has involved several where Brexit (or rather, the implications of a No Deal Brexit) was the keynote subject.

A long-term role chairing the CFA manufacturers committee allows me to have input into strategic regulatory and installation recommendations to aid the flooring industry with changes in product and installation requirements (it also allows for my representation for the CFA on the British Standard Committee for Textile Flooring). I am currently chairing the new CFA sub-committee looking at an enhanced cleaning and maintenance section for the CFA Guide to Contract Flooring.

Because the CFA is very closely involved with the Contract Flooring Journal regular joint meetings to agree our ongoing working relationship include open invites for the president. Frequent CFJ readers will know I now have a regular column in the magazine too! On a bi-monthly basis I write a CFA president’s article and in alternate editions I write a new technical article wearing my Forbo Flooring ‘hat’. And yes, before you ask, I don’t employ ghost writers. I write these articles myself, so the quirky comments are all mine!

Other external support functions include linking with the Construction Products Association (CPA) where last year I attended, along with CFA team members, a meeting with MPs and trade association members at the Houses of Parliament. It was very useful to hear the (then current) debates on Brexit which have obviously changed many times since!

I also attended IRG (Industry Response Group) events that were held following the Grenfell Tower disaster, to ensure that we are up to date with any proposed changes to Building Regulations in respect of the Grenfell Inquiry and its recommendations.

So, a busy year and a time of change it has been!

This includes the CFA’s move after 30 years from its Nottingham City centre offices to more suitable premises to support current and future roles and personnel. The move to Chilwell (on the Southern side of Nottingham) finally took place this March. Another recent event that I have had some involvement with has been the refresh and upgrade of the FITA training facility in Loughborough, again part-supported by Forbo Flooring.

With an acknowledged shortage of skilled labour in the whole of the construction industry, the flooring trade needs to focus and re-group in terms of training and apprenticeships, so my presidential themes of ‘excellence and training’ remain my focus for the next twelve months and are probably our next big project.

My CFA presidency will be (unusually) just over two years in duration, due to diary changes with the CFA AGM in 2020. My hope is that I can continue to actively support the flooring trade with positive engagement in all aspects of the CFA to help make our trade the best it can be. I have certainly enjoyed my time so far and it has underlined for me just how important it is to have an active trade body, and if at all possible, an active president.