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Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

Carl Harper provides an overview of his first, very busy year as president of the CFA.

DOESN’T time when you’re having fun! They often say so anyway. I think the same could also be true when you’re incredibly busy, as I seem to have been during my first year as CFA president. There’s certainly been a lot going on, with the various campaigns that the CFA has been involved in, as well as a specific round of responsibilities in my role as President – there have been four council meetings to chair, as well as an AGM to chair, two Golf Days and two CFA Balls and other events to attend.

This has included other work for the CFA that is not directly connected to my job as President but that I like to support anyway. For example we have been having regular meetings to review the apprenticeship standard over the last 12 months. I believe this is incredibly important work as it links to training and attracting new entrants to the sector – a topic I shall come back to presently.

It’s all certainly made the time pass rapidly – and I would say it’s mainly been fun as well!
One of the things I have enjoyed most has been the opportunity to meet new members, to hear of their enthusiasm and find out what led them to the CFA, what they hope to get out of their membership and, hopefully, what they intend to put back into it.

A nice example, which involved the team here at Westcotes, has been our work with a recently-joined family-run contractor. The new member has been very proactive in seeking more information about how the CFA works and also our recommendations regarding what they could achieve from their membership.

The team in charge of the business are relatively young and they modestly admit that they have a lot to learn. They mentioned that they had seen some of my own LinkedIn posts and specifically asked Richard Catt for an introduction, which was duly provided. In fact their first port of call was to see Shaun and Richard at FITA, where they discussed how FITA could help improve staff development, access new work through training and ensure maximum work quality through improved training.

There was also a discussion of course around all the benefits of CFA membership, understanding the power of using the CFA logo, business helplines, networking events, technical support, promotion through the website and all the other member benefits.

We then invited them to meet up for a coffee at our offices, where we were able to show off some of our processes and the business software that we use. We learned that theirs is a very nice business with a strong and established client base, but I think we still managed to impress them with how we do things here at Westcotes!

I feel this is going to be a beneficial relationship on all fronts with lots of winners. We have gained a new member and this company went away with a host of ideas, contacts and support material to help them develop their business in the future. Helping businesses to grow is all part of the CFA experience and we have a wealth of information and knowledgeable people who can help. We are delighted to have the opportunity to help members – particularly our new members. That’s because we view our members as partners, whom we should work closely together with. Our aim, virtually above everything else, is to see new businesses thrive and improve, which at the end of the day will benefit everyone.

It’s these sort of anecdotes that I would say have been the highlight of my first year in office and have really made the job worthwhile. They help us perform that role of being an advocate for the CFA, promoting what we do for the industry and if possible recruiting new members. This has certainly been a priority for me personally over the last twelve months.

The most important and highest profile project of the past year has undoubtedly been our Future Fitters campaign. That is because it is totally existential regarding the future of our industry. If our campaign to support the sector, as it seeks to develop more skilled labour to replace our ageing workforce, is not successful, then we all face a pretty bleak future.

My involvement has focused on the four key pillars of this project. Firstly I was happy to become a STEM Ambassador, which has meant visiting local schools and colleges, and in my case a prison on one occasion, to speak about the career opportunities that exist in flooring. Flooring offers a great career for all.

Secondly we try to create more opportunity or provision for localised training for those who want to enter the sector or develop their skills, and I have had the opportunity to support the courses that manufacturers offer. We have also tried to help contractors employ more new entrants to the industry and assist with structured training and qualifications. Finally, we have been constantly looking at new ways to fund all of this.

This work remains challenging on many fronts, but it has also been incredibly rewarding -particularly as I believe we are beginning to see some results.

I would finally like to draw your attention to the new CFA website at www.cfa.org.uk. Richard talks about this in some detail in his column this month. Suffice to say this is an important platform, which serves as the Association’s shopfront, showcasing the work we do on behalf of the contract flooring industry. Perhaps more importantly it acts as portal where members can access the services which their membership fees pay for.

I would urge contractor members to visit the site. I trust you will find the new refreshed look attractive and easy to navigate. Please take the time to check the directory entry regarding your business – and let us know of any amendments required. You will find that the whole members’ area has been redesigned to make it more appealing and user friendly. There is a huge amount of information on there, but the whole site is searchable, so you should be able to find whatever you are looking for.

Please also remind yourself of the various services and benefits that are available to members – and in that way get the most out of your CFA membership!
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