Building the next generation workforce
Our success depends on our ability to attract, develop and retain the very best talent, which is becoming increasingly
challenging in the context of the demand for skills in the roofi ng industry. Here Simon Dixon, training manager
and technical offi cer for the National Federation of Roofi ng Contractors (NFRC), explains the importance of
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World Skills UK
It’s no secret that the UK construction and
roofi ng sector is facing a crippling skills gap.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered
Surveyors, three times as many people are
leaving the industry each year as are joining
it, with many fi nding work elsewhere or retiring.
This is leading to companies having to turn down
projects or use unskilled labour to fi nish the job.
They are also competing against other industries
to recruit new talent – and struggling to retain the
skilled workers they have.
Rising to the challenge
In the last few years, the sector has started
to develop a number of exciting initiatives,
product developments and collaborative schemes
to address the problem.
Most recently this has centred on the
World Skills UK regional heats for Roof Slating
and Tiling, something the NFRC has been
championing as vital in terms of attracting and
retaining a skilled workforce.
World Skills UK partnered with the
Construction Industry Training Board
(CITB) to deliver this competition that
runs for student apprentices, giving them
the chance to compete against each other,
demonstrate their skills and become the national
winner for their trade.
Roofi ng trainees from across the country enter
heats in their regional colleges and the top eight
scorers then go on to compete in the three-day
national fi nals.
Reaching the right people
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB)
released some shocking statistics last year after
surveying 230 smaller construction fi rms with the
percentage of respondents citing a shortage of
skilled workers rising again to 42%.
As well as a shortage of bricklayers, carpenters,
electricians, plasterers and plumbers, those
surveyed also said roofers were in short supply.
This situation was underlined by Cupa Pizarras,
which sponsored the World Skills UK heats for
Roof Slating and Tiling.
The company said it was very concerned
about the number of trained slate installers in
the UK, and wanted to play a part in helping keep
the younger generation interested in the craft.
Other parts of the competition will see
roofi ng operatives work on the protective layers
of a building, which separate the inside from the
elements using a range of materials, methods
Roof slaters and tilers install and repair all
the waterproof coverings for buildings by applying
slates or tiles to a designed framework, such as the
roof of a house.
Skills for this role include understanding
drawings and specifi cations to know
what materials to use, fi xing underlay, insulation
and roof coverings in place, repairing old or
faulty roofi ng and ensuring any new covering
Heritage specialists can also work on roofs
ranging from Victorian terraced houses to ancient
churches. Modern slaters and tilers are trained
in using the handmade materials of earlier eras,
including clay tiles and different types of natural
stone or slate.
Inspiring tomorrow’s workforce
The competition draws national and international
attention and shines a spotlight on the industry
and this will help us encourage more people into
this sector – a sector brimming with potential for
career development and, according to the FMB,
an average salary of £42,303.
But it will also appeal to potential employers.
This is important because one of the key issues for
those involved in the roofi ng and cladding trade, is
that on the job training is a must.
This means more companies need to be
open to the idea of apprenticeships – and career
The NFRC and CITB are creating an industry
accreditation to protect and support the growth
of the sector now and in the future. What the
NFRC and World Skills UK both emphasise is
that as well as recruitment and retention, quality
of training and best practice is necessary if the
industry is to fl ourish.
The accreditation aims to improve effi ciency,
upskill the workforce and encourage the use of
new technology. It also hopes to attract new
people into the industry by changing the poor
perception of the career paths on offer and
working collaboratively with employers, clients,
specialist federations, professional training
providers and other relevant stakeholders.
With everyone on board, it is hoped the
accreditation scheme will create 5,000 accredited
roofers in a four-year period, protect the future
of roofi ng and enhance its reputation for a new
generation of roofers.
It is crucial that we continue to address the issue
of skills shortage in the industry.
The loss of workers to retirement combined
with the erosion of potential candidates by other
sectors will leave us with a very limited workforce.
But we are on the right pathway to address this
with accredited training for roofi ng and cladding
installation, inspirational role models in the sector
and competitions like World Skills UK, which
celebrate talent and inspire a new generation of