The CFA membership year runs from 1 April – 31 March, and so it will shortly be sending out renewal notices to existing members, inviting them to re-join with a short overview of activity. Richard Catt elaborates…
THE major influencing factors have of course been Brexit and coronavirus, with many specific areas of focus cascading from each of those headings. Late starts; disruption on sites; rules relating to face-coverings and masks; what you need to do if you become infected; material and labour shortages; price increases; shortages of lorry drivers; new standards and legislation; red tape; and different working practices. The list goes on.
But it wasn’t all bad and the past year has included what I’d describe as some contradictions.
On the one hand we have had those (new) disruptions caused by coronavirus and Brexit. Managing demand has been an issue and finding enough labour has been an industry-wide problem. This has got to the point where order books are essentially closed and being able to give an indication of when a project might next be discussed (rather than started) is the only realistic option.
Yet, speaking to members, many have had a good or even exceptional year. As I started by saying, a membership year of contradictions and more than a few challenges.
The year has seen us save funding for apprenticeships that was withdrawn by CITB. We also negotiated with government so floorlayers could remain on the list of occupations where EU workers could be employed (with sponsorship) to work in the UK.
Balancing that, and our commitment to homegrown talent, yet another milestone achieved was when FITA began delivery of apprenticeships early in 2021 – a long-term aspiration of mine and many of our longer-serving council members including Alan Gayle (also the FITA chairman) and the CFA president, Hamish MacGregor.
Both Hamish and Alan are of course contractors and with their council colleagues (and wider member input), drive our agenda and focus.
Skills and labour have been topics of conversation for a long time, but traffic has increased recently as the problem has got worse. CFA has had a range of support in place for many years, including discounted training at FITA and of course best practice information in our annual training guide.
But we’re increasing our efforts in the new year to help members find new fitters from outside the industry, as ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ is no longer an adequate solution and older fitters continue to retire. As with most of the things we do, we update members regularly through our exclusive monthly newsletter, Contract Contact.
The effects of Brexit are still being felt, perhaps more so, with queues on both sides of the channel featuring in the news this week. The CFA keeps members updated with changes that need their attention.
CE-marking and its replacement (UKCA marking) is an ongoing discussion at our manufacturers’ committee. We provide regular feedback to the Construction Products Association (CPA) on issues such as this, and they’ve also been very important to us in providing specific construction related economic data to members throughout the year. With CPA’s help we continue to develop an understanding of sustainability and place importance on bringing this subject to members’ attention. It’s good for the planet, and actually also good for business … or so members tell us. We have lots of support and ideas on offer in the members’ area of the CFA website.
As I write, we’re currently in Plan B restrictions. Omicron is causing problems and the guidelines (site operating procedures) have just been updated once again (now on Version 9!).
But I hope that by March and the publication of this article, things will have eased. The message from government is very clear, ie that construction should continue and despite their current problems, I’m sure that policy will remain in place even if other ‘elements’ don’t.
CFA members will be fully supported to that end, allowing them to focus time and energy on giving a quality service, fitting floors, and maximising their profitability. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the CFA has an excellent member retention rate and a directory of successful businesses that potential clients can access.
The CFA is a leading trade association representing the flooring industry. If you would like an application pack or further information on the benefits of membership, please contact the CFA offices.