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BiKBBI’s annual conference highlights importance of collaboration

On Tuesday, 6 February the British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI) held its 2024 conference in Westminster. This annual event, hosted at the prestigious QEII Centre and sponsored once again by Senstec and Quooker, is a crucial forum for professionals, industry leaders and experts from the KBB industry to gain insight, discuss key topics and make valuable connections.

BiKBBI’s 2024 conference theme was “Driving industry change through collaboration”, and speakers and panellists shared opinions and experiences and debated the sector’s challenges and opportunities, across a series of engaging presentations and discussions. The event was hosted by Hannah Prevett – Deputy Editor of The Times Enterprise Network – who expertly guided activities and thoughts throughout the day.

The conference was opened by CEO of BiKBBI Damian Walters, who celebrated the existing collaboration from sponsors, retail partners and stakeholders which drives positive change for the sector but warned there is still much to do and a need for greater collaboration from the whole industry on the subject of education, standards, compliance and sustainability. Results of the BiKBBI Installer Survey 2024 were also unveiled at the conference.

Keynote speakers included Fergus Harradence, Deputy Director of Infrastructure Construction & Rail at the Department for Business & Trade (DBT) who shared the UK government’s predictions for 2024, highlighting that, despite the continued challenges with a shrinking workforce and the continued skills gap, there was growth potential with both consumer and business confidence increasing which would ultimately benefit the construction sector.

Emily Wallace, CEO of the Trade Association Forum (TAF), also presented on the topic of the value of associations and what can be achieved when industries work together to influence policy, face challenges and grow skills.

Industry insight data from AMA Research was presented alongside key findings from the Bathroom Manufacturers Association’s Understanding the Bathroom Installer Survey 2023 and kbbreview’s Retailer Survey 2024 as well as BiKBBI’s own Installer Survey 2024 – all highlighting collaboration as the pathway to success.

BiKBBI hosted a sustainability panel featuring Phil Viner from Triton Showers, Tom Reynolds from the BMA and Lyrical Communications’ David Ventris-Field to discuss how to reach and support  KBB installers better on the topic of sustainability. BiKBBI’s Installer Survey 2024  highlighted that 1 in 5 installers have noticed an increase in customers asking for recommendations on environmentally friendly products, and over 50% of installers feel the industry is not doing enough to reduce its impact on the environment.

Diversity Ambassador for BiKBBI, the Rt. Hon Stuart Lawrence, supported by James Moore from the MoD’s Careers Transition Partnership and Apprentice Plumber Sophie Maguire, led a workshop on why and how the industry should work towards improving diversity and inclusion, highlighting the benefits that a diverse workforce can bring to businesses and the industry. Stuart Lawrence then asked delegates at the conference to sign BiKBBI’s ‘Charter for Change’ – a commitment to work with BiKBBI to explore a revised inclusivity recruitment strategy– with 55 businesses pledging their support for the charter.

Education and apprenticeships also remained on the 2024 conference agenda, being a key area of focus for BiKBBI as a route to tackling the current skills gap. A panel of experts, led by Hannah Hockley from The Apprenticeship Partner, included Wickes Apprenticeship Programme Manager Connie Collett, independent retailer and apprenticeships champion Simon Taylor, KBB apprentice employer Paul Miles, and previous KBB apprentice Elliott Perry. The panel discussed recent advances in apprenticeships and training, including the new standalone Apprenticeship Standard for Fitted Furniture Installers reinforcing that access to education and training is integral to resolving the skills shortage, with Hannah Hockley highlighting the importance of the whole industry recognising the severity of the situation and the importance of support from all areas of the sector.

Damian Walters, CEO of BiKBBI, said ‘The BiKBBI annual conference has seen significant growth over the past three years, and it is not by coincidence. The attendance of so many brands and businesses here today is representative of the importance that installation plays to the whole industry and recognises the role that we fulfil as an institute. The theme of the day was collaboration, which was demonstrated by the 160 delegates who took time away from their busy day jobs to come here, join the conversation, and support this vital sector of the KBB industry. But now the real work begins, and we will continue to drive the agenda on the topics raised today with the support of our corporate sponsors, retail partners and wider stakeholders.

I would like to personally thank all contributors, speakers and panellists involved in today’s event, along with all of the delegates who, through collaboration, made the event a success and have given the industry a solid platform to move forward from.”

The results from the BiKBBI Installer Survey 2024 can be view here.

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