With recruitment a growing concern for many fabricators, Stephanie Tague, head of Building Our Skills, talks to Total Fabricator about the campaign to make fenestration a career of choice.
In a nutshell, what is Building Our Skills?
Building Our Skills (BOS) – making fenestration a career of choice – is committed to bridging the growing skills gap by working closely with employers and other organisations to attract new entrants to the industry, and by up-skilling the existing workforce, to ensure it can meet future challenges and continue to prosper.
BOS aims to work on behalf of the industry to continuously promote and raise awareness of fenestration to new and young people, helping to inform, encourage, inspire and support them.
What fenestration skillsets does it cover?
Any business with a stakeholding in the fenestration industry can take part. For BOS to succeed, we need companies and individuals to support the campaign, hopefully buying into its principles and goals.
BOS wants to see all roles in the industry accessible to new and young people. It helps that most roles within our industry have professional career paths and this is a huge benefit to young people.
What can BOS offer fabricators specifically?
Many of our larger partners, mainly extrusion and component manufacturers, are working with us to create ways of getting fabricators and installers to engage with the campaign. This is manifesting itself in the promotion of several initiatives to help fabricators focus on up-skilling their workforce, and also highlight where funding support is available.
We also have a campaign which aims to get business and individuals engaged with local schools. In turn, this will help create awareness towards the industry and future recruitment in those areas.
We are also running workshops and masterclasses to support the changing legislations, improvements and other important factors which may affect fabricators.
What do you think puts off newcomers and youngsters joining the industry?
We have been slow to recognise that our industry has some fantastic opportunities. We haven’t promoted fenestration as a career of choice and therefore, it’s not perceived as such.
Young people will have a huge impact on future-proofing and growing fenestration, so it is important we make every effort to attract them, even more so as most businesses across our sector are already experiencing the effects of an ageing workforce.
“A fabricator role may not be the most attractive proposition for a young person, so it’s important to consider what motivates them”
How can fabricators attract new talent?
A fabricator role may not be the most attractive proposition for a young person, so it’s important to consider what motivates them: apprenticeship schemes, qualifications, mentoring, incentives and rewards for achieving personal targets can all help to attract and retain young people.
BOS is working on a number of initiatives and creating advisory groups to better understand how we can communicate our messages into certain sectors more effectively, notably the education system, which is top of our list. We want to encourage anyone with experience and opinions to join in the discussions and input into the campaign.
Can you tell us
about the EverybodyFITs campaign?
EverybodyFITs was launched in January this year to work in partnership with industry employers, encouraging them to consider the benefits of employing a diverse workforce to help bridge the growing skills gap.
We launched this campaign to get employers to consider a wider pool of employees, rather than the standard stereotypical person who would normally fill a certain role.
For example, we believe it’s important to highlight job roles such as surveying and CAD design to females, and explore how we can attract people with disabilities to join our workforces. Diversity in a workforce can be key to a company’s success and there is a vast amount of government research to prove how this can work.
Making manufacturing more accessible in terms of disability, race, gender or age is not impossible and in many circumstances, costs nothing to assess and put processes in place. Moving away from ‘the norm’ and having an appreciation of other staffing options automatically gains you a larger amount of potential job candidates.
What is the role of the BOS Champions?
We encourage all our sponsor partners to offer an individual who can provide their company, colleagues, customers, and suppliers with more insight into the BOS mission, goals and initiatives. This individual is a ‘champion’ and gets the opportunity to become more actively involved with BOS, benefiting from free workshops and masterclasses, up-to-date information on the campaigns and initiatives, and helping in advisory and feedback roles.
Tell us about the BOS Academy and how fabricators can use it
The BOS Academy is in Sheffield, next to Meadow Hall shopping centre. The building has been chosen for its accessibility and will be used for three different areas: business, practical training and ‘inspiring talent’.
Opened in November last year by Lord David Blunkett, the practical training area is built with apertures to fit windows and doors. There is also a conference and teaching area, where most of the academic training will be facilitated.
Both these areas are a great for fabricators to use, either benefiting from our annual prospectus of free masterclasses or utilising the training courses being run by BOS or other training partners.
Partners sponsoring BOS also have limited free use of the centre as part of their package, making it a great facility to train and launch new products to customers and staff.
Is local government funding available for fenestration courses?
BOS is engaging with government agencies which have access to funding and in certain areas, we have secured qualification and courses in fenestration available to fabricators.
We are currently working with West Yorkshire College Consortium, Sheffield City Region Skills Bank and Nottingham/Derby Local Enterprise Partnership.
Tell us about the BOS Inspiring Talent Academy
We have developed a 15-month programme for young and new people in our industry. The aim of the Inspiring Talent Acadamy is to get employers to look inside their businesses, identifying future leaders and nominate them on to the programme.
The BOS Inspiring Talent Academy is based in Sheffield and we see three student intakes a year. Employers will be asked to show their commitment to the employee by allowing them to attend a minimum of seven days during a 15-month course, from which they will graduate at the end.
Attendees will gain a range of experiences to help develop their knowledge and confidence, with access and exposure to business learning, mentors, site visits and team-building with their peers.
What would your message be to fabricators who feel that training, skills and encouraging new talent is not a priority for them?
Evidence and feedback from many of the large organisations we work with shows how investing in training and development is a key contributor to the longevity of a business.
Investing in a training programme and enhancing the skills of staff is equally as important as any other business function, helping towards team building, empowerment, feeling more valued and less pressured.
Fabricating is already a profession, qualifications exist for individuals choosing it as a career. These qualifications developed and awarded by GQA Qualifications, not only enhance the individual’s knowledge and learning but offer the company a better-skilled workforce.
BOS has just been registered as a limited company by guarantee. What does this mean?
The move to become a limited company by guarantee was crucial for the development and progress of the campaign. Not only does it give BOS a better and stronger platform to develop, but it allows industry companies to get involved as members, partners or sponsors. With the exception of employee and day-to-day running costs, BOS will reinvest year on year profits gained from funding, sponsorships, and the BOS Academy towards growing and promoting fenestration. The staus will also allow BOS to apply for funding and grants to help with skills, training and development.
What is next for BOS?
The ethos surrounding BOS is longevity. We acknowledge there is not going to be an instant shift of new people suddenly coming into the industry, but hopefully the work we are doing now with employers will help towards making that change, in particular in their own communities.
We will be putting a large amount of energy into encouraging people to register for our Inspiring the Future campaign: www.inspiringthefuture.org/fenestration/. This is crucial to raise awareness of our industry in the future – anyone from an MD to an apprentice can sign-up and talk to schools and colleges.
We will also be continuing to work with government agencies and other external agencies who can support funding and grant opportunities to help businesses secure skills and training, and help us increase awareness of fenestration. We are improving our communication methods through our website, social media platforms and other online services to ensure we share as much information with the industry as possible and plan to set up a number of advisory groups to support the network.
How can fabricators get involved with Building Our Skills?
Follow us on our social media platforms – Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Like and share with other colleagues, customers and suppliers. The more people aware of the campaign gives us a greater chance of raising awareness of Fenestration. Contact us direct – the BOS team can offer more information on our various campaigns and you can decide how much your businesses and employees get involved.