Builders Blog

Why our inspections benefit our members

08 April 2016 11:21

Since 2011 all new members joining the FMB have undergone an independent inspection of their work as part of the application process. What’s more, from the start of this year, the FMB took the decision to roll-out inspections to all members, however long they have been with us. Why? Because we want the FMB name to be synonymous with quality. The more membership is valued in the eyes of the consumer, the more work FMB members will get.

Inspections are carried out by the British Board of Agrément (BBA), the UK’s leading organisation when it comes to testing, inspecting and certification services for manufacturers and installers. Using independent inspectors puts credibility at the heart of our membership criteria. Our own research shows that fears over cowboy builders are preventing thousands of consumers from having work done in the first place – to the tune of £6 billion a year. That’s £6 billion of work that is lost because home owners feel unable to trust tradespeople to do a good job.

We want to be able to shout about how great our members are and the best way to do that is via independent inspections. By inspecting all firms, we can loudly proclaim that the FMB badge actually means something. We are the only building trade organisation to inspect all of its members and we’re constantly championing this so that would-be home improvers and custom builders know where to go for quality, trustworthy workmanship.

And that’s a message we’re getting out there all the time. In the last year the FMB has increased its consumer marketing activity and with 2016 being our 75th anniversary, there’s plenty more on the cards. Being able to say that FMB members are independently inspected gives us a unique selling point that other organisations just don’t have. We’ve lasted that long because consumers trust us to operate to the highest standard and that’s a strength we’re looking to build on.

How to encourage firms to take on more apprentices

26 February 2016 11:04

You’ll have heard plenty of construction bosses grumbling about how difficult it has become to find a good brickie or carpenter of late. Tradespeople of all kinds left the industry in their droves during the financial crisis but with momentum now picking up, an all-too predictable mismatch between supply and demand for talent is developing. Worryingly, it looks like this trend will only to get worse as the number of entrants coming into the industry is a long way short of being adequate. Apprenticeship starts in 2013 to 2014 totalled a mere 16,000, and the general bottoming out of apprenticeship numbers in the years following the downturn has depleted the skills base. Given that another 400,000 workers are expected to retire over the next decade, we need to find a way to address the skills shortage.

Small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, like the ones the FMB represents, will be at the very forefront of any solution. That’s why we launched a new research report titled “Defusing the skills time bomb” at the end of last year. Two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by SMEs, a statistic that underlines the importance small companies place on training the next generation of talent. And there obviously exists an appetite to do more still. Our research found that a massive 94% of smaller firms want to take on apprentices. So the question is: how do we encourage those employers that want to train apprentices but aren’t currently doing so?

Our research found that a third of businesses are being put off from training apprentices because of a variety of “fear factors.” Unsurprisingly, the fiendish complexity of taking on an apprentice acts a major deterrent, emphasising the need to simplify existing support systems for firms looking to engage. Similarly, worries over costs can cause companies to give up before they have even started.

The latter is extremely important, as currently, just under 80% of non-recruiters of apprentices are not aware of one of the most important apprenticeship grants available to them. 75% of these would-be industry mentors say knowledge of financial support would make them more likely to take on apprentices, demonstrating that the current support arrangements are not being communicated as well as they should be. The FMB needs to work with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which has indicated that supporting apprenticeships will be the predominant focus of its activities in the future, and ensure these small firms know about and can access the support they are entitled to.

More broadly, it’s vital that we see a cultural shift in attitudes in this country. Hundreds of testimonials were gathered as part of our research and they reflected an often repeated truth - that is, the negative perception of a career in construction is making it more difficult to find good quality candidates. The rewards of a career in our sector – of which readers will need no reminding – have to be championed properly, not only to the young, but also to older workers who left the industry during the economic downturn.  Over the coming months, the FMB will be working closely with the Government and CITB in an effort to educate people on the many reasons why they should consider a career in construction.

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