Catching the skills train

Brian King was recently invited on a trip to Floortrain's training centre in Doncaster. He toured the centre to what they offer with respect to training.

INTERNAL CAPTION FOR THE BACON BUTTY: ‘It's never the best idea - as I often remind myself - driving and eating a bacon butty. On arrival, I needed a minute to clean the HP sauce stain off my jacket’

A COUPLE of weeks before my invitation, a good friend, NICF master-fitter and UK carpet fitter of the year semi-finalist Phil Stock had visited Floortrain free-of-charge and kindly completed carpet-fitting demos for the youngsters attending apprenticeship courses. These, Phil told me, had gone down very well.

He suggested I tag along and do an interview for UK Flooring TV, which I immediately agreed to. We settled on a convenient date and, even better, there were apprenticeship courses running the same day.

I looked online at what they do and got a list of questions together ready for the date agreed on. Phil asked to come along so I offered to pick him up on the way on condition he got the coffees and bacon butties on the way there.

It's never the best idea - as I often remind myself - driving and eating a bacon butty. On arrival, I needed a minute to clean the HP sauce stain off my jacket. (That seemed to put a sarcastic smirk on Phil’s face).

Floortrain is situated on an industrial estate, quite a smart looking building from the outside with the ever recognisable Floortrain symbol fronting the building on a large sign. On entering on the ground level there were a couple of young fitters templating plywood, heads down concentrating on back-marking the lines from the template paper to the plywood.

We headed upstairs to the training centre where we were greeted by Deane Bisby, one of the tutors. The first thing I noticed was there was a buzz to the place; everyone seemed like they wanted to be there. I remember when I did my apprenticeship half the class was forced to go and didn't want to be there or had no interest, but here it seemed different as there was a welcoming vibe to the place.

There was a young lady along with a couple of lads doing cap-and-cove in three bays with a tutor helping them along and a couple of young men fitting plywood in other bays.

There was another couple of lads setting out and fitting vinyl tiles in other bays.

What impressed me was the size of the bays; they were sizeable with plenty of room to work in. The sound of the radio in the background gave it a relaxed atmosphere.

I was introduced to another tutor called Chris Young who was in his 70s. He’d clearly seen most of the things that have come and gone in the flooring industry as he’d been a fitter all his life since leaving school. You could also tell he wasn't just doing what he does for the money as he spoke about the industry with great passion.

Deane made us a cup of tea, took us into the large office area and introduced me to the office staff tapping away on their computers and answering calls. He then showed me the classroom, a large room with all the tables set out into a letter U facing the main wall where the whiteboard was and a section on the wall on British and different cultured values etc.

Also, I noticed a very large bowl of different kinds of fruit and bottles of water. I asked what it was there for and Deane told me it was offered to the apprentices as a healthy option, free-of-charge. Lastly, I was introduced to Dominic Ormondroyd, a company director. After a brief chat, I set up my camera and started taking videos and pictures.

Deane told me Floortrain offers apprenticeships and NVQs. It started with them offering CSCS cards and NVQs, then as they got funding, they started offering apprenticeships. They also have another training centre in London where they offer the same training as well as diplomas.

He explained that the NVQs they offer are for more experienced floorlayers to obtain entry onto sites. They come out onsite to asses you and within six weeks you’ll have your NVQ.

They also offer apprenticeships - a diploma where the delegates come in monthly for a theory session as well as practical sessions on all aspects of flooring on a bespoke timescale to the employer, offering all-year-round practical classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help them get as much practical experience as possible.

They also have an app to try to bridge the gap with young people. It’s easily accessible on our phones which is good because most young people are, I’m sure, like my three children – they can’t function without their handheld devices. The app contains data sheets, installation videos and virtual theory sessions, so if they can't make it into the centre they can do a distance theory session on the app.

What Floortrain offers is the flooring equivalent to a driving licence – a basic qualification for the floorlayer that allows them to go on their way with a good start in their career. It’s then up to them if they want to further their knowledge by getting additional training from other providers in different fields of the industry. They have the head-start and the fundamentals to allow them to start climbing the ladder.

The industry needs centres such as Floortrain to move forward and better the industry and I, for one, take my hat off to them.

The thing I noticed at Floortrain was that you could tell they were all there for the industry and bettering the industry - it was more than simply a job for them. You could see the they had. Perhaps there should be more centres like this and more funding available for the industry? All in all, it was an enjoyable day

You can watch the interview on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and UK Flooring TV.

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