Product, training and support solutions are helping combat the skills shortage.
Albert Einstein once said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Simplicity is, to paraphrase another great thinker, ‘the shortest path to a solution’ and is something the roofing industry has taken to heart in the face of the continuing skills shortage. It’s an issue that affects the whole construction industry; in simple terms there just aren’t enough people filling the gap the recession left when thousands of roofers found work elsewhere. Keeping things simple is one way we can address this, both as an industry and as individual companies.
SIMPLE TO INSTALL PRODUCTS
In roofing, different products and projects need very different skill-sets. The good news is that whether your project is pitched or flat, new build or refurbishment, dwelling or commercial there are an increasing number of products on the market that are quick and easy to install. They are great examples of how manufacturers are helping address the skills shortage by providing products that are intuitive to use.
One company that is at the forefront of this move to making installation as easy and fool-proof as possible is IKO. They are rolling out ‘step-by-step’ instructions with images and videos on a number of products. And their new IKO easyseal System is ideal for smaller, flat-roofed domestic jobs. It’s a BBA approved built-up felt system with a 20 year life expectancy. You only need basic skills and tools as it consists of three self-adhesive products: an 8m Underlay, 6m Top Sheet and a 15m VCL.
TRAINING TO PRESERVE SPECIALIST SKILLS
Of course some products are inherently more difficult to use than others (e.g. hot works) and require more specialist skills, experience or training – particularly if you don’t use them often. IKO’s award-winning refurbishment of Westminster Cathedral, with contractor Knight Asphalte, needed outstanding craftsmanship due to its spectacular slopes and numerous curves.
These kind of skills need to be preserved – which is why IKO has training centres around the country to help roofers and contractors. Their technical support team also provides advice for contractors, merchants and specifiers. In addition, their site engineers inspect projects before and after a system has been installed by IKO Approved Contractors.
IMPROVING THE IMAGE OF ROOFING
Addressing the skills shortage isn’t just about the training that manufacturers and suppliers offer. It’s about changing the image of roofing. In Germany, roofers and other tradesmen are respected and command high prices – something we should aspire to in the UK. It’s time to present an updated image of UK roofing to the world; one in which young people see roofing as a promising career full of opportunity.
Companies like IKO are playing a central role in this bid for change. You can find them on Twitter @ikoplc where you can also post your best projects, apprenticeships and job openings by using the hashtags #futureroofers and #loveroofing.
Through intuitive product development, comprehensive training and support for contractors we can all help a new season of growth in roofing come through – from the grass roots up.