A look back while moving forwards

Garry Bateman highlights the major activities and actions of the past year and looks to the future with hope.

SO, we’ve arrived in December. Almost another year gone with Christmas just around the corner. As your president, I’ve had quite a varied year with several contrasting CFA activities. At the October CFA autumn ball held at the Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club near to Edinburgh, I highlighted some of the major activities and actions, so thought I’d let you ‘share’ the event by summarising my speech at the dinner as my last article of the year.

As president, there are certain opportunities to influence events. One was to support the move of the historically held CFA summer ball to this inaugural CFA autumn ball and to ask for a venue in Scotland. The change of date moves the ball away from the busy wedding season and enables a better choice of hotel. And what a superb setting - the hotel has provided excellent accommodation and service.

Why Scotland? Well, my day job is as technical manager for Forbo Flooring, which is based in Kirkcaldy, so a ‘local’ setting seemed apt. I remember the last one in Scotland at the Thistle Hotel, Glasgow, was a great event – something about Scotland liking a party?

So, to the CFA. This is my halfway point as president (two-year occupancy) and it’s proved to be a busy year. When I spoke last year at the CFA ball in Chester, I stated my dual themes were to be ‘training’ and ‘excellence’. For those of you who read my articles in CFJ, you may recognise these popping up from time to time.

On the training front, the new CITB-approved Floorlaying Trailblazer Apprenticeship has been finalised.

This was a huge effort by members of the CFA, in particular Alan Gayle, AG Flooring, Manchester, and former CFA president, to produce a new apprenticeship standard. While the CITB has delayed the introduction, it’s a testimony to the employers group led by Alan and the CFA in their continued efforts to promote training.

To better support floor contractors in Scotland, the CFA via its training arm, Fita, now runs regular generic and customised training courses in Kirkcaldy courtesy of Forbo Flooring in its old linoleum training centre.

On a personal front, I’m demonstrating my desire for training by the appointment of a new technical apprentice at Forbo Flooring. This is a new initiative and means more work over two years for me but for a good result by allowing opportunity for someone new to enter the trade and be upskilled with appropriate up-to-date technical knowledge.

What’s pleasing to note is the willingness of trade contacts to provide ‘real-life on the job experience’ for this new but mature apprentice.

On a similar theme, last month the CFA council supported a new initiative called Future Fitters to allocate funds to carry out a trial outreach to assess the potential for new fitters to enter our industry. This trial will be centred on the Midlands area and hopes to provide a better understanding of young and mature entrants interested and suitable to start in the flooring industry.

It’s a positive step to test the market and hopefully will lead to a much-needed increase in flooring installers. Part of the vision is to better promote our trade to the wider public such that we attract new blood through multiple, flexible and accessible routes ensuring they’re suitably trained and ultimately become competent. As we all know, there’s a skills and labour shortage, which is characterised by the fact that the average age of fitters is also rising. A problem shared by your president!

On the training and excellence front, the refurbishment of the Fita centre in Loughborough has provided a much-needed refresh and chance to refocus. It really presents a tidy, fit-for-purpose, modernised facility with the refit overseen by Shaun Wadsworth, CFA training manager.

You no doubt have and will continue to hear me talk about excellence. As I said in a recent CFJ article, it’s about doing your best in all things. I attended a UK slip-resistant group meeting in October held at the British Standard premises in Hemel Hempstead. I noticed a banner which has the strapline: BSI …. Making excellence a habit, so this theme is supported by a major employer. For the flooring industry, permanently under stress of price and time pressures, it means ensuring correct procedures are followed, whether that be onsite or the office.

We’re a changing trade with new products and fitting systems entering the market. It’s important that we together ensure new or less experienced personnel are fully trained and fully competent to carry out their respective roles.

The flooring industry is a skilled trade (let nobody doubt that fact!) and the recent CFJ/CFA Awards which was focused on project fitments provided an excellent window to view just how good our trade can be.

We must ensure that these published high standards are replicated continually around the country to raise the perceived profile of the flooring industry if we are to receive greater recognition for our skills, whether that be in better pricing or standing.

It’s an honour to serve my industry as CFA president and hope I can continue in my last year (up to August 2020) to support further initiatives and activities to make a difference for everyone’s future.

In closing, I’d like to send my best wishes for a peaceful and restful Christmas (I’m sure well deserved by all) and my hope for a productive and profitable New Year for all.
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