With COVID and the Green Homes Grant Scheme (GHG), the issue of the skills gap has fallen from the top of the agenda over the last few months, but it has by no means gone away. You only have to look at the job boards or Window Fitters Forum on Facebook to see that after a great COVID bounce back, firms are desperate for experienced fitters to help cope with demand for installations.
Elsewhere, Government is pushing for improved standards across the construction and home improvement sectors, which has been further driven by the GHG – Government does not want to pay out for work on homes if they are fitted with shoddy workmanship that will mean products fail – it’s a waste of precious funds.
BEIS has specified PAS 2030 standards for works carried out under the GHG and Health & Safety Executive and Ministry for Housing Communities & Local Government are looking for ways to align to ensure consistency of standards throughout construction. PAS 2030 is not the solution for all and work needs to be done to ensure it meets more than the requirements of major construction firms.
Unfortunately for our industry a lot of the drive and narrative is seeming to come from Construction Leadership Council and Build UK, who repeatedly fail to represent anyone but the larger firms insisting that small firms need to adapt to the will of those with larger operational structures.
So, for the average installer there are big changes on the horizon surrounding regulations. Competent Persons Schemes will be the vehicle to help deliver and support the local installer and they will be calling for more learning and Continuous Professional Development from installers to bridge a gap in aligning to a changing regulatory market.
We have a vicious circle in the glazing industry, in that fitters aren’t really paid enough for the skilled work they carry out, so there is limited time and money to invest in further training. But the message from Government is clear – if you want funding, you need to clean up your industry, and really your industry should be in a better place anyway. It comes back to years of our sector telling the influencers that glazing isn’t really part of construction and that absolutely needs to change.
Another challenge is the changes in permitted developments which will see more complex buildings being repurposed for domestic housing – but how many installers have the experience of working at height, and how can they prove that they have the competent skills to carry out that work? Government will start to ask about where fitters are installing products and when was the last time your skills for completing this work were tested.
Whilst this may sound like red tape or another hurdle for companies on the surface, if we can prove that we actually have a skilled, competent workforce in our sector to Government, then we are much more likely to be considered when money is on the table.
Government want to invest in our housing stock, and we in glazing know that a great way to improve homes is with new windows and doors, if we can prove that we are worthy of funding we may actually reap benefits from initiatives like the Green Homes Grant. It will translate into the further professionalisation of our industry and cowboys in the sector won’t be able to keep up – once we start the process there could be a snowball effect of improvement.
So how do installers prove their competency onsite?
The new Glazing Competency Portal from Certass, gives installers access to bite-size training courses where they can improve their technical knowledge and prove their onsite competency. We’ve developed it in partnership with OFQUAL-Approved awarding organisation SSID Awarding, as they will soon be launching a range of innovative, regulated qualifications, specifically for our sector, to genuinely raise competency standards.
All the courses are run through a digital platform, so they can be updated with the evolving Building Regulations and installers can continuously improve their knowledge. Plus, they’re free for MTC Continuum members.
There’s a long way to go before we solve the skills issue in our sector, but we believe that giving installers an easier way to prove their competence is a great way to start.