The CFA has identified four areas that need attention if the labour shortage in the flooring industry is to be addressed. Shaun Wadsworth explains.
IN his article this month, Richard Catt, CEO of the CFA, introduces ‘Future Fitters’ – our headline project to support our members and the wider sector in their work to recruit new talent and in particular to encourage floorlayers to enter the commercial and domestic floorlaying industry.
As an organisation CFA (and its training arm FITA) have always been active in supporting the industry to create more skilled labour.
We’ve been running our training organisation since the early 2000s, delivering short duration flooring courses for timber, textile, and resilient floorcoverings as well as specialist areas. Since last year FITA has also delivered the Floorlaying Apprenticeship Standard.
The annual CFA Training Guide keeps industry and members up-to-date with all the opportunities that are available for training and quick guides for areas such as funding and for levy payers, how to engage with CITB. Indeed, such is our focus that my role as training manager was created to support our sector.
So, what are the key ingredients missing, which mean that, despite all the above, we’ve moved from a skills and labour shortage of 11% in 2019 to a worse shortage of 16% in 2022? Brexit, coronavirus, changes to standards, apprenticeships, and funding have all played a part, but through research and analysis CFA has identified four further areas that need attention.
- The Pipeline (Communication)
Many CFA members we’ve spoken to agree it’s often difficult to find good quality people to even consider for roles within their businesses. They may think about being a plumber or an electrician but few, if asked, would probably offer flooring as something they’re considering. Unless of course their dad, mum, uncle, aunt, or friend of the family happen to be involved.
What can we do? CFA is offering several solutions. Firstly, I would point the industry towards the STEM Ambassadors scheme that both Richard and I have mentioned in previous articles. CFA is supporting this very directly, encouraging as many people as possible to sign up and go into schools and colleges and spread the word about our fantastic sector.
Secondly, we’re going to work alongside as many members as possible to use our combined reach within social media channels to improve the visibility of our sector and becoming a floorlayer as a career option.
Third, we’re going to support and populate websites such as GoConstruct where information about careers in flooring can be found.
Part of our job is also to ensure all the above are synchronised and link each step until a ‘Future Fitter’ finds an employer and begins training.
- Increase demand from employers
There are great stories in our industry of companies that invest heavily in training their workforce, that take on new employees and maintain the pool of labour that is available. There is no answer to the concern that once someone is trained, they may move on to a competitor or even become a competitor, but the fact is that there simply aren’t enough new entrant positions for floor laying roles (with structured training and qualifications attached). So we need to challenge the industry to change that dynamic and invest in making it as painless as possible.
- Expand localised training provision
Another barrier is the limited number of training providers available (particularly for apprentices) across the country. Here at the CFA we are offering ourselves as a touch point for any college or commercial provider considering offering apprenticeship delivery and will support with practical advice, signposting and contacts that can help.
If a flooring contractor member or a college gets in touch, we will support and help to find other local businesses that will make it viable for a college or commercial provider to develop provision. Plus, link them to manufacturers that may sponsor and offer help with materials and other resources.
- Identify new industry/financial support
CFA has a good understanding of financial support available to our sector (we have a whole section in our Training Guide) but will continue to seek new avenues and funding to help support the training and development of skills and labour.
Many of the courses offered by CFA manufacturer members are free of charge, and all CFA members receive a discount of 15% off all training delivered by FITA. ALL apprentices are eligible for basic government funding to cover the cost of their college course and CITB-registered companies can obtain additional grant funding and enhancements.
The clear objective for Future Fitters has been to identify as many solutions and entry points as possible for those wishing to join our industry, and for those wishing to reach out to potential new employees. Members can always contact me, and I will try and help find a solution to a specific problem.
Shaun Wadsworth is CFA & FITA