For National Apprenticeship Week 2021, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association Tom Reynolds reflects on why addressing the skills gap presents the key to long-term sustainability in the bathroom sector.
With the job market shrinking and the global pandemic continuing, the emphasis on the skills agenda is increasing as we rebuild our economy and country. The latest ONS UK Labour market statistics make grim reading with unemployment at nearly 5%, and 250,000 fewer 16–24-year-olds in jobs than before the start of the Coronavirus crisis.
In the bathroom sector, our ageing workforce and shortage of skilled tradespeople nationally is no secret.
Manufacturers have been telling us for years they are worried about the skills shortage in the sector, particularly at the higher end of the market. It has the potential to become a major brake on our collective growth.
We need a concerted effort to address this issue across our industry, attracting new and diverse talent.
Last year, BMA took the decision to join forces with the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA). Founded in 2017, FIESTA brings together the key trade associations and affiliates from across industries to solve the education and training issues we all face.
It is a move which has been mirrored by The British Institute of Kitchen Bedroom & Bathroom Installation, in a very welcome alignment of common goals and ambitions across our respective parts of the industry. Acting as a gateway organisation, FIESTA is helping our members benefit from the Government’s Kickstart scheme to create new fully funded job placements for 16-24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment. Ideal Standard is already capitalising on the opportunity, with four young people starting their new roles in the first wave of the Kickstart programme in the coming weeks.
We know the younger generation are being hardest hit by the rise in unemployment, and this scheme is the opportunity to support them and ensure we have a pipeline of new skills, the key to the long-term sustainability of the bathroom sector.
Kickstart will introduce a new generation to bathroom manufacturing roles and FIESTA’s services are the perfect way to access that scheme. We know other companies are ready to join the scheme and play their part in solving the skills gap in our sector.