Roofing 224 views Sep 01, 2017
Raising the standard of roofing – it starts here

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) should be congratulated for their latest initiative to raise the profile of the workforce and improve standards. Chief executive James Talman has set out three objectives which he believes are needed to take the industry forward in what he calls “The Roofing Sector Workforce Development Strategy.” These are to:

  1. Establish roofing as a professional, modern respected and aspirational sector with clear career paths; able to attract the best and brightest apprentices, students and new works.
  2. Formalise and standardise a higher UK-wide training, accreditation and assessment infrastructure, to upskill and multi-skill its growing work force.
  3. Proactive engagement with all roofing sector companies, suppliers and trade associations and seeking endorsement and commitment from all procurement stakeholders; enabling growth increased training and access to grants and higher standards.

In all the excitement it would be easy to forget that there is one key sector within roofing that successfully went down this path many years ago – and that would be the mastic asphalt industry.

Most of the major contractors within mastic asphalt, via its trade association MAC, have successfully encouraged and supported apprenticeships for many years. All operatives have to have some three years of training before they reach the required craft skills - backed by CITB-approved training schemes, to a minimum of NVQ Level 2 and, ideally, to NVQ Level 3.

It has resulted in the most highly trained workforce within roofing which has enabled the industry to support some of the most comprehensive guarantee schemes and warranties – knowing that it has a proven product that can only be installed by the very best.

Until now there have been few other areas within roofing that offer the same high standards and support for building owners, architects and all other construction professionals, so it can only be hoped that James Talman will succeed with his new initiative.

MAC successfully gives accreditation to all its members and over the years the NFRC has also ensured that it attracts the best operatives, but it only has around 1,000 members and these already represent the cream of the industry.

Proof that the scheme will work will only be seen when this initiative goes out to a wider audience. We still have many thousands of so called “ladder and bucket” roofers which are traditionally hard to reach with any new message. We have even more general builders who call themselves roofing contractors when a potential job is in the offing – so it will be intriguing to see how the strategy will work in these areas.

The rest of Europe does things slightly differently and roofing is seen for the highly skilled job it really is so I hope that this initiative will succeed at every level and root out the cowboys and make it impossible for them to operate.

I fear that this is still a long way off – but you have to start somewhere – so all power to the NFRC.

By John Ridgeway  Follow me on Twitter @JohnRidgeway99