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The need to up-skill

With fewer young people entering the tiling trade, is it time to up-skill existing employees? Antony O’Neil, founder and lead tiling instructor at Trades Training School in Edinburgh, discusses how training in the tiling industry is adapting to the changing landscape.

We’ve seen a changing landscape in the tiling industry over the last few years. The number of tilers in the UK has reduced by a third since the mid-2000s and fewer young people are choosing to enter the trade, making it more important than ever for the industry not only to recruit new trainees but also to retain existing talent. Along with the traditional apprenticeship route, we are seeing more adults retraining and an increase in businesses which need to up-skill staff and obtain qualifications for their workforce.

One of the key reasons people leave any industry is the lack of opportunity to develop and progress. Traditional training routes can require significant commitment over years, but increasingly we are working with businesses who are training staff “on the job” — both trainees and more experienced workers. Many businesses are too busy to allocate time for adequate training, and outsourcing can be a cost-effective way to solve the problem. Working with an external training provider removes the stress of juggling practical training while offering nationally-recognised qualifications to staff.

At Trades Training School, we recognise that everyone learns differently, and offer small classes as well as one-to-one tuition, with time set aside for students to practise within realistic conditions without the time pressure of working on-site. What’s more, all of our instructors work in the industry and understand the practical issues faced by tilers and employers alike. Our courses run from one-week to 6 months to suit the training needs of employers.

We keep up-to-date with new products and techniques, which can be difficult for business owners when busy on site and dealing with the challenges of running a business. We also help businesses keep abreast of new developments, giving them a competitive edge and helping them to engage and retain staff. We work with large construction companies who send us their employees to complete their City & Guilds Diplomas, providing comprehensive training in the key areas of wall and floor tiling.

All training is delivered at our centre, giving employees the space to focus on learning, developing and practising the skills required for their job or career progression. These employees bring that knowledge back to their workplace alongside a nationally-recognised qualification. Because our start dates are flexible—with courses running year-round—employers have the option to split up training around their employees’ schedules. Despite offering small classes, we are able to deliver training at relatively short notice. This method of training allows employees to obtain industry-recognised qualifications with the option for businesses to tailor training where required.

Our courses are hands-on and mostly practical, meaning employees return to work ready to use their new skills. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to employers is the new enthusiasm and energy that employees bring back into the workplace, bolstered by access to ongoing support from our network of fellow students and course instructors.

We have also seen an increase in tilers requiring NVQ/SVQ qualifications. We deliver these qualifications with the least interruption to our clients’ businesses by working around busy and often changing work schedules. When employees need to obtain an NVQ/SVQ qualification to work on construction sites, our assessors can visit the workplace to observe and assess employees with little disruption to their working day. This is an invaluable resource for our clients as the number of colleges providing these qualifications has reduced significantly in recent years.

We also work with companies to deliver training in specialist areas, such as wet rooms (a real pain point for tilers and bathroom installers) and large-format tiles. We source all materials to create bespoke courses tailored to our clients’ needs. In the 15 years we’ve been operating, we have noticed a change in the ways tilers are learning their trade and are constantly adapting our courses to fit around the needs of our clients. All the training we offer is customisable and can be split into smaller modules to work around employees’ schedules, with flexible start dates. We work with businesses from all over the UK, helping to secure accommodation when required.

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