The story so far…

David Hibbert provides a mid-term review after a year into his term of office as CFA president

I T FEELS like the blink of an eye, but over a year of my term of office as CFA president has already passed. The fact I’m still writing this column might also give everyone a clue that I’ve been re-elected for a second year and I’d like to express my thanks to the CFA council members for placing their confidence in me to continue to lead the association for a further year.

As I embark on that journey, I think it’s a good time to reflect on the past year and look at some of the issues currently at the top of my agenda in representing our members.
Among the many events I’ve attended as president, being a judge of the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ competition was a real highlight for me and shines the spotlight on an issue that faces the industry over the years ahead - specifically, the need to encourage more young people to enter our industry and develop the skills we need over the coming years.

It does seem there’s a lack of interest among young people in working in the construction industry generally, and in particular, the flooring industry.

Competitions such as the Apprentice of the Year are a great way of showcasing the opportunities for young people in the flooring industry and the rewards of learning a valued trade. It’s surely got a lot more going for it than getting a degree only to end up working in a fast food restaurant, as a lot of freshly-graduated students are finding out.

What was noticeable from the entries into the competition was that, while the standard of applicants was high, the number of apprentices who entered was disappointingly low.

For the winners, the Apprentice of the Year competition is a fantastic achievement and something they can be rightly proud of.

Furthermore, the more apprentices we can get entering the competition, the higher we can raise the profile of the industry amongst young people.

I’d urge any contractor who has an apprentice to encourage them to enter. Not only is it good for them, but also, if they’re successful, it will be beneficial to your own business by highlighting the quality and professionalism of your workforce and also in recruiting more apprentices.

To make entering the competition simpler and easier, we’re looking to revamp the entry process and make it more electronically based.

Hopefully, by doing this and encouraging contractors to be proactive in getting their apprentices to enter, we will be able to boost the numbers we receive for next year’s competition.

A second issue I’ve been concerned with over the past year has been that of unfair payment terms (including retentions) imposed on sub-contractors by main contractors.

My column in the February edition of CFJ highlighted the lack of fight being shown by Build UK on this matter – the organisation that is supposed to represent the interests of 11,500 contractors throughout the UK and across all sectors of the construction industry.

Build UK responded with its own article in a subsequent edition of CFJ, explaining it was ‘committed to bringing together the contracting supply chain to consider what best payment looks like’.

It also pointed to its ‘construction supply chain payment charter’, which was launched last year and includes its vision of best payment; aiming for 30-day payment by 2018 and zero retentions by 2025. Four Build UK members have so far signed up.

Why setting a date 12-months down the line as a target to implement 30-day payment, rather than starting now, and why aiming for a further seven years after that to try to get rid of retentions can be considered best practice is beyond me.

At least our making a noise in the media did have the effect of soliciting a response from Build UK, and they know we won’t just sit back in silence while things progress at a snail’s pace or meaningful action on fair pay (which means sub-contractors actually getting paid on time and in full) keeps getting kicked further and further down the road.

The CFA was set up to represent the best interests of its members. I think it’s so important for the integrity of the association and you can be assured myself and the association will continue our discussions and lobbying with Build UK to press for faster progress towards fair payment.

As you may be able to detect, I’m passionate about the flooring industry, and how we can make it better and get a fair deal for our members.

I’m looking forward to the forthcoming year as your president and assure you all of us at the CFA will be working hard to represent the interests of our members on all levels.
David Hibbert is president of the CFA