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A ‘clear, structured path’ towards a career in roofing

by Matt Downs

The New Year marks a new start for the IoR. Not only will it celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020, but it has a new CEO, Stuart Hicks. Matt Downs puts the questions to Stuart on all things IoR including its role in today’s market, the plans for the future, and what challenges lay ahead …

MD: Can you tell us a bit about the Institute of Roofing – what are its goals?

SH: The Institute has been established since 1980 with the fundamental aim of encouraging and supporting continual learning and career development for those with supervisory, management and ownership roles within the roofing industry – and that aim continues today.

Since my appointment last August, it quickly became apparent that a really significant job for me as CEO is to remind people how important the IoR is for individuals in our industry.

We have some very clear goals for 2020 – including a strategy to boost membership, increase awareness of the Institute and its benefits, and remind people that we have an influential voice alongside other associations and the wider roofing sector. These will all create a strong foundation for our ambitious plans ahead.

MD: Who do you cater for and what sort of courses do you offer?

SH: We are open to anyone in the roofing sector from contractors to manufacturers, merchants and distributors, to roof surveyors, consultants and a wide range of support services. We offer individual members a clear, structured path towards management careers in roofing by achieving industry recognised professional qualifications. This is done by building on existing knowledge, offering industry-specific courses and CPDs. This ultimately delivers professional status as an Associate member, or higher-level status of the Institute of Roofing. We also offer certified online training in health and safety and business management development. Our benefits package provides access to a host of online courses, many of which are free to members.

MD: Can you tell us a bit about what membership entails and what are the benefits to the individual?

SH: Whether you’re an apprentice, someone new to the industry still in training, or an established manager or business owner, there are enormous benefits to joining the IoR as we work to help individuals achieve industry recognised professional qualifications. Joining the IoR also enables individuals to use the status of membership with qualification after their name.

There are different levels of membership, but ultimately members are in supervisory or management roles – or higher – and have access to quality training to help expand their skills and knowledge, and further their career.

Our members are also eligible for a Professionally Qualified Person CSCS Card, provided they have passed the ‘Health, Safety and Environment Test for Managers and Professionals’ within the last two years.

MD: Is the training practical, online or a mixture of both?

SH: There are a number of training and CPD options offered by the IoR.

A new Associate Course has been launched and its first intake has already started. The course is designed for those considering a professional career in roofing, particularly with an eye to moving into or occupying a supervisory or management role. The newly revised Associate Course has been updated and moved to a dedicated online learning platform.

This entirely new and innovative course delivery is designed to offer individuals the opportunity to learn effectively with minimum disruption to working patterns.

Group sessions, which are classroom based, will be complemented by directed self-study, using pre‐prepared online learning tools. The course will be delivered over a five‐week period and is split between one day per week in the classroom and web‐based course content.

There is no formal exam following training.  Students will cover 200 learning criteria and submit 60 tangible pieces of learning evidence for assessment. The courses provided and being developed by the IoR have the potential to be a substantial source of revenue for the Institute.

We also have a number of online training courses which can be accessed by anyone through the IoR website, and also offer free CPDs during regional meetings. We are also attending a number of Direct Contact Exhibitions (DCE) events providing CPD days and networking opportunities to our regional members this year. All of these are listed on our website.

MD: What sort of costs are involved – I assume they vary?

SH: The Associate Course costs £850 +VAT per delegate. CPDs are free to all members that attend, and members also receive one free online learning course a year, which cost £25 +VAT each. These courses cover anything from manual handling, asbestos awareness and working at height, to data protection, conflict in the workplace and LinkedIn for business training.

We have an online benefits portal of training and e-learning options which can only be accessed by members, and we encourage them to share the information and knowledge using the tools from the portal with colleagues, family and friends.  

MD: You recently took over as CEO of the IoR – what was your view of the IoR previously and the progress it has made over the years?

SH: Since my appointment, I have realised that the IoR is really a sleeping giant. There is so much that can be achieved, and it just needed the catalyst and desire to get the wheels in motion.

One area the Institute needs to progress, and one I truly believe we can achieve, is gaining Chartered status. As the leading professional body in our field, we need to have an ambitious long-term goal. Something that at this moment in time isn’t possible, but with the right focus and management is achievable over time.

MD: What will Chartered Status mean for the IoR, its members and why is it so important now?

SH: Everything we do as an organisation from this point forward, needs to be in-line with and focus on the goal to becoming Chartered. And why is this so important now? Because it will allow us to address the main issues we face and allocate the available resources we have in the most time and cost-effective way possible; in such a way that we strengthen the Institute and provide a sustainable long-term future.

MD: Now you’re settled in as CEO, what do you feel is the biggest challenge for the IoR?

SH: There’s a lot going on and it is a really busy time for us. I think, ultimately, the IoR needs to cement its place within the UK roofing industry, and that will be one challenge to begin with.

We can do this by working with other training providers, federations and sector associations, and create a pathway to professional qualifications to help and encourage participants to achieve their highest level.

We also need to create, find and nurture the opportunities that provide a reason for retaining and raising the standing and influence of our membership and attracting the next generation of roofing professionals.

MD: We all know training is important for the individual, but for it to have real tangible value for them you need the customer, employer or end user to be willing to reward the individual who has invested in themselves through paying more etc. Is this happening or is the market still driven by price?

SH: It makes more business sense to invest in employees, as the reputation of the company is at stake. But times are tough and job security is better than no job at all. It is about maintaining that level of quality employees and investing in your people, which is sometimes vital to ensure long-term business success. You need to be able to rely on your workforce – and that can happen if they are treated well, with respect, and are recognised for their skills.

I think the lower ‘cash’ end of the domestic market – where you get what you pay for – may mean a so-called roofer that does not have the correct qualifications or experience installing an off-the-shelf roofing system. Domestic customers still take that risk, especially with repair work.

MD: How important is it for the IoR to be recognised by external stakeholders as a badge of excellence for members to help them win business, progress their careers and really offer value to individuals?

SH: It is very important for the IoR to be recognised by the wider industry. Anyone who devotes their time into training and upskilling – no matter what age or level they work at in their career – should be regarded as an expert in their field and therefore trusted to deliver that certain level of performance. It is like gaining a badge of excellence that opens doors and helps individuals progress in their career.

MD: How will you work to achieve this awareness with external stakeholders?

SH: We are improving our marketing communications, target media and social media presence and updating the website, to ensure people know they can come to the Institute for professional qualifications, further learning opportunities, guidance and information.

We are investing in our regions and providing opportunities for professionals to talk to professionals. Our DCE events this year will encourage members and other professionals to get together and talk to one another, network and introduce the benefits of our membership to the wider construction industry.

Whether it’s manufacturers, contractors or end users, there’s always going to be a dark market where price will be king and people will be willing to cut corners.

MD: What would you say to those who perhaps think paying for training and investing in themselves can be difficult to justify when margins are tight and you’re up against the “cowboys”?

SH: Corner cutting can happen – and sometimes a specification is set and operatives are told to deliver the results regardless of whether it is the best solution for that particular project, or even if the right products are being used. Cutting corners introduces risk and a project could fail, creating problems and liability issues for employees and individuals. So is it really worth it? Owners who have invested in their business and employees and deliver a quality service will want to distance themselves from that part of the market and provide solutions that meet the needs of the client.

MD: Do you feel the roofing industry is slowly changing the outdated perceptions the public and in some cases clients / building owners might have of it? Or are we still some way off?

SH: I think there is still a long way to go – stereotypes still remain and it is hard to break those stereotypes when they are so intrinsically linked to some professions. Rogue traders are still out there, but for every horror story, there’s a thousand great success stories and highly skilled roofing contractors delivering real quality workmanship. The roofing industry is trying hard to professionalise itself and that is a really positive news story for the construction sector. ‘Cowboys’ will find it increasingly hard to operate as end-customer awareness of quality standards and how to find skilled operatives develops.

MD: The big push currently within roofing is for accredited roofers through the RoofCERT accreditation programme; It seems the IoR’s push for professionalism through CPD, training etc. aligns nicely with RoofCERT’s goals – how, if at all, do you see the IoR working alongside the RoofCERT programme?

SH: I think you have to consider the current scope of roofing and what’s happening across the board. The roofing industry has a plethora of training, guidance and support mechanisms available through its numerous associations, and RoofCERT as a programme is one of many that addresses the skills of the individual. A lot of work is being done to professionalise the industry, and RoofCERT is there to target individual contractors and get them certified for the practical skills they can demonstrate.

Our position as an Institute is to concentrate on supervisory, management and business ownership expertise and for people who are looking to take the next step in their careers. The IoR isn’t just for people working on the roof, but covers the entire scope of the roofing industry. Anyone from a manufacturer to distribution to contractor can tap into the qualifications offered by the Institute and carry their career forward. So, I think for us, it’s not about roofing skills, but knowledge and professionalism.

There is no umbrella organisation in roofing, so we have to work together as an industry to ensure we deliver the best possible guidance and support for anyone working in this field. Trade associations and federations are increasingly working collaboratively to achieve this.

MD: You’ve mentioned a re-branding and update to the logo, website etc. – what sort of values and messages will this new branding touch on and look to present?

SH: Improving our marketing and communications is a key goal for 2020. We will develop a new website and continue to increase our presence and voice within the busy social media sphere. We need to generate a buzz around the Institute by developing an engagement strategy that entices users to engage with us. But most importantly, we need to remind people of who we are, what we can do for them and how we can help them achieve their professional career ambitions.  

Our branding needs to appeal to the new generation of members that need to be targeted. We need to become desirable, relevant and promote a sense of professionalism and credibility that has its place in the 21st century.

The graphic identity re‐design will not only give us a new logo, but will give us what we need to produce a new and more professionally presented organisation.

Lookout for further comment and updates from the IoR in upcoming issues of Total Contractor. If you’re interested in becoming a member, contact the IoR on the details below:

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