BiKBBI calls upon the industry to take action now to avoid catastrophe

by Francesca

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) today released its plans to tackle, what it believes to be “one of the most significant challenges faced by the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom sector ever”, the national shortage of professional installers, calling upon the industry to unite now or “risk future catastrophe.”

BiKBBI is placing a call to action on the entire industry, including suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers, to actively support much needed change by pledging intent at The organisation plans on approaching the challenge in what it calls a “three-pronged-attack” including Apprenticeships, professional development and re-training.

A 2016 review, published by The Construction Leadership Council and written by Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy, identified an impending crisis relating to a growing shortage of skilled labour, titling the publication “Modernise or Die”. The report identified UK government ambitions to build national infrastructure but warned a lack of tradespeople in both construction and refurbishment would prevent these ambitions being realised.

Since the publication of this review in 2016, two major events have added to the crisis, which BiKBBI believes “negatively changes the landscape significantly.” The events referred to is the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which affects the free movement of EU labour, together with the unfolding Coronavirus pandemic.

BiKBBI believes that both of these events would present real problems for the industry on their own, but CEO Damian Walters says that “the skills gap was already a crisis before we faced these latest challenges.” He added, “this problem will not correct itself, nor is anyone else focused on fixing it. The challenge is ours and one we must all face if we want to avoid a disaster like none faced by our industry before.”

BiKBBI confirmed that its plans were split into three key areas. Apprenticeships, training and re-training – each included within a strategy to address the short, medium- and long-term recovery from the skills gap.

Apprenticeships have formed a key part of the plan for the last five years, however, BiKBBI confirms that it will be forming a national network of training providers to collaboratively develop, promote and deliver the Level 2 Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship from the 2021 academic year.

Working with the industry, BiKBBI collaborated with the UK’s first college of Advanced Technology (PROCAT, Essex), to deliver the Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship. The blueprint courses in collaboration with BiKBBI saw the first student cohort enroll in 2017, embarking on a two-year course, with the second starting in 2019.

The organisation has demonstrated the effectiveness of the Apprenticeship, and its ability to work with strategic partners to develop, promote and deliver vocational learning specific to the KBB industry. BiKBBI engaged over 2500 school children to present career opportunities within the KBB industry so far.

Today’s announcement confirmed that this programme will now be rolled out nationally, working with a network of colleges and training providers to create official BiKBBI Approved Training Providers. The organisation confirmed that it had already received interest from a number of training providers and strategic partners, and that it plans to commence delivery of a nationally available Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship from the 2021/22 academic year.

BiKBBI plans to extend its support, as it plans to formulate it’s ‘Big Red Bus Tour’ – taking the industry directly to primary and secondary schools, promoting both the apprenticeship programme and wider opportunities that lie within the industry. CEO Damian Walters commented by saying, “our strategic alliance with the North Americans has really driven the tour idea, as America’s National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is leading the way on taking its industry into high schools stateside” adding that “this is a proactive and direct initiative that is all about action and less about talking.”

BiKBBI is working with a number of strategic partners,  including FIESTA and Achieve + Partners, in the development of the apprenticeship standard. BiKBBI confirmed that this is not a campaign that can be delivered in isolation and that partnerships with like-minded collectives was “absolutely critical”.

BiKBBI also confirmed the extension of its relationship with Charlton Athletic Women and announced its intention to form the UK’s first female only Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship in collaboration with the South London club.

The second strand of BiKBBI’s plan is Learning & Development (L&D). Earlier this year, the institute launched its L&D platform ‘BiKBBI Campus’ – an online training portal that works predominantly with suppliers and manufacturers to deliver technical training to members and the wider industry.

BiKBBI Campus Director Mark Parish said, “We have been overwhelmed by the support for Campus so far, but we need more manufacturers to get on board and deliver training through the platform. We’re seeing learner numbers increase as many used lockdown to improve skills for themselves and colleagues.”

Damian Walters added, “it’s incredibly important that the existing workforce ensure that they keep updated with new product, processes and legislation and I’m pleased that Campus is a great vehicle for this learning.”

The final part of BiKBBI’s plan is retraining.

Earlier this year BiKBBI confirmed that it had signed The Armed Forces Covenant – a pledge to work with the Armed Forces Community by utilising some of the easily transferable skills that some former servicemen and women can bring to the industry.

The strategic alliance has already included working with The Ministry of Defence as well as other organisations and charities, with an objective of plugging some of the skills gaps at pace with disciplined, professional trades.

Call to action

BiKBBI confirmed that it could not realise its ambitious plans without support from the industry and makes an urgent appeal to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers to pledge support immediately.

CEO Damian Walters said: “Without support there will be no solution. No one else is leading a robust and achievable plan focused on installation, but without support and funding, this will not happen.”

BiKBBI has published a call to action that pleads the industry to join together and collaborate. It asks the industry to join forces and register interest in supporting via their online pledge at

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