The main findings of a CITB funded Interiors Sector Training Review, which was published last month, are that two thirds of current operatives in interior sector trades are unqualified; there are insufficient new entrants into sector through a formal qualification route; and the communication of training opportunities and funding is sporadic.
The research was carried out by the Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors (FPDC), the Association of Interior Specialists (AIS) and the National Association of Shopfitters (NAS) and involved the CITB, specialist contractors and product manufacturers. The report estimated that there are about 60,000 tradesmen operating as ceiling fixers, demountable partition installers, drywall finishers, shop fitters and SFS installers, working within the interiors sector.
The review indicates that just over half of existing interiors sector operatives worked in different areas of construction before working in it. New entrants often come to the sector later than school leavers but funding reduces significantly for those over 19 years and there is no funding to cover apprenticeship training for those aged 24 and over.
The research confirmed that the training of operatives in traditional trades and crafts, such as plastering, carpentry, is well-established. However the continuing growth of dry systems means employers need to find ways to keep the existing workforce suitably trained and qualified and also attract, train and retain new entrants.
During the last decade at least 60 training providers (colleges, manufacturers, other private training providers and large employers) have at some point been accredited to deliver diploma / apprenticeship courses in drylining and interior systems. Over 3,000 NVQ Level 2 qualifications in interiors and dryling have been delivered through the On Site Assessment and Training (OSAT ) route in the five years between July 2007 and June 2013, an average of 600 per year, but not more than 30 apprenticeships are delivered per year in these subject areas throughout the UK.
Initial training for drylining operatives is generally provided by manufacturers and where the nature of such training is somewhat fragmented and means that the number of recognised qualifications gained is small.
The Training Review also looked at the impact that the levy and grant system on profit margins of employers in the interiors sector. It combined the total amount spent on training including any levy payments and compared this with the total amount of grant claimed. Some employers in the sector paid up to 12 times more for training than they claimed or could claim back in grant.
A major contributor to the unstructured, informal training and qualification landscape is the use of labour only subcontractors (LOSCs). It is estimated that LOSCs account for 78 per cent of labour; unusually high, even for the construction industry. Most LOSCs have no direct access to CITB funding as commonly they are not registered although they’re entitled to claim.
Key areas include the establishment of industry training standards that meet the needs of the sector, the provision of sufficient training facilities and resources, simplicity and transparency with regard to locating appropriate training and the effective promotion of the interiors sector to new entrants.
The research has been thorough and wide-ranging, and has sought to establish very clearly what is already done well and where it needs to improve, as well as considering completely new ideas regarding how the industry is to move forward and make a significant difference.