My Scottish odyssey

A recent visit to Scotland gave Shaun Wadsworth an excellent opportunity to observe how apprenticeships are progressing.

AT the end of August, I had the great opportunity to visit Scotland through my work as training manager for the CFA. There were several reasons for my visit, first up was a tour of the Forbo Flooring factory with Garry Bateman (CFA president), after that a trip to the City of Glasgow College with Mark Purdie (lecturer for floorlaying apprenticeships in Scotland) and finally the CFA Scottish committee meeting which included a great networking and a golf event afterwards with lots of CFA members and their staff.

It was fantastic to make the most of my time while in Scotland and it really was jampacked couple of days. Visiting Forbo in Kirkcaldy was excellent, Garry as always was the perfect host and managed to showcase all aspects of the factory in such a short space of time.

To see the process for producing marmoleum was really insightive and highlights the top level of quality that floorlaying manufacturers strive to reach, all while using a well calculated mixture of traditional and modern productions methods.

While there I also got to see the Fita Floorlaying School which is located in the factory at Kirkcaldy. It was great to see the excellent facilities available for Fita courses in Scotland up close and cemented my thoughts on the quality of the set up that’s being provided there for a whole range of courses.

The next day I was up bright and early to speak to Mark Purdie at the City of Glasgow College regarding the recent developments with the Scottish apprenticeship programme, in particular the subject of the skills tests, expert witnesses and portfolios attached to the qualification.

Mark was generous enough to show me the facilities the college had to offer, and they’re simply superb, as a former apprentice I understand a real impact to consistent learning is a dependable and well-established area to be able to develop in.

Mark mentioned they accommodate the lion share of space in the construction section of the college and that floorlaying apprentices outnumber all other constructions apprentices combined.

This reinforced what I had been told about the floorlaying apprenticeships in Scotland.

Mark was invited to speak at the CFA Scottish committee meeting later that day and wanted to inform the industry about the changes to the apprenticeship and potential barriers to learning and achievement of apprenticeships in the future. The meeting was held at Bishop Briggs Golf Course in Glasgow and once again provided a great venue for the days events.

After the committee meeting was a well-supported networking event and round of golf in the afternoon for those daring enough to venture out. It was great to see the floorlaying industry come together and meet, there were plenty of contractors attending along with manufacturers and clients as well. For those golfing, there was also plenty of prizes up for grabs generously supplied by the industry.

During the committee conversations, it was clear there are a few constraints currently affecting the apprenticeship scheme in Scotland that the CFA and Scottish contractors need to be aware of.

These challenges were outlined by Mark Purdie and I’m very glad to say the committee members listening were very quick to offer support and guidance on these matters wherever they could.

It was clear to see the apprenticeship scheme in Scotland is thought very highly of when speaking to employers and it was obvious they value training and apprenticeships as the main route for new floorlayers into the industry.

There are several issues faced by the City of Glasgow College in delivering these apprenticeships going forward and this will directly affect employers of these apprentices as well. It’s clear to see further discussions are needed to ensure the apprentices get every opportunity to complete their qualification in the correct environment with the adequate support from all parties involved.

In August 2017 the skills test was introduced as an SQA unit contained within the SVQ and there’s an issue as to how the skills tests are funded. This is also made slightly more difficult as the marking of the skills test is to be observed by an expert witness not attached to the college or the employer of the apprentice.

Both the skills test and expert witness were added at the request of the construction industry in Scotland and therefore the Scottish flooring industry (not just CFA Scottish committee members) will have to make every effort to ensure these can be achieved.

There have also been some major changes to the documentation of the evidence needed to achieve the qualification as well, with apprentices now having to provide evidence of onsite fitting for their portfolio. This can cause barriers for some apprentices who don’t have capacity to collect this evidence without the use of their colleagues.

There’s also the issue of some aspects of the apprenticeship not being covered by the apprentice’s specific job role or long periods of time not fitting a certain type of flooring and therefore evidence being hard to obtain.

This barrier will once again rely on training driven employers actively supporting their apprentice, understanding what’s required and working closely with the college and CITB to ensure the apprentice can provide ample evidence when required.

In the short term, the CITB has agreed to continue to support the cost of the skills test for the next two years (after which point the City of Glasgow college will be responsible for funding the skills test) and this does give some time to resolve some of the problems outlined.

Going forward both myself as training manager and my colleagues at the CFA (including committee members) will try to help provide guidance and support in all the above matters raised but ultimately there needs to be a clear consensus on how the apprenticeship will be completed. It’ll also require all parties involved to be transparent and open so they can work together to safeguard the apprenticeship scheme in Scotland for the fitter of the future.

If you work in the flooring industry in Scotland and feel you could be involved in helping as an expert witness, as support for the apprentices or in any capacity with regards to training, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Shaun Wadsworth is CFA training manager