James Talman, CEO of NFRC, discusses the roofing trade association’s priorities and ambitions over the next twelve months.
2024 will be a year of change and transformation to the landscape in which the roofing industry operates. The Construction Products Association (CPA) predicts limited recovery to construction output this year, but it will still be all change on regulation, competency, and perhaps much more after the promised general election.
NFRC’s goals are thus angled to support Members through these challenges, whilst maintaining a mission to proactively take on long-term and future issues for the industry.
Skills and labour
Ongoing feedback from Members and data from our quarterly State of the Roofing Industry survey supports that labour will remain a challenge into 2024. Many will need to take action to keep their entitlement to a CSCS card once ‘Grandfather Rights’ have ended, and the NFRC Assessment Service is one of the providers that can deliver site-based assessment to make sure experienced operatives can carry on as usual.
We are also expanding our efforts to provide information to young people, parents and career changers on the opportunities available within the roofing industry via the NFRC Careers Service, and 2024 will see us embark on actioning the first parts of a comprehensive Skills Strategy in response to industry needs. This will fit into wider initiatives such as working with NHBC and the HBF to develop on-site roofing masterclasses, which were valuably influenced by learnings from the RoofCERT programme on more common gaps in knowledge for operatives.
Poor payment practices
The risk of having to cease trading will be a concern for some businesses in the coming months as economic conditions look unlikely to improve at any great speed. Late payments and retentions are an unacceptable contributing factor to many insolvencies, and we will be continuing our campaign on the importance of ending cash retentions in 2024. There are several strands to this topic and a priority is to end abuse of the current process. Access to cash is crucial to businesses’ investment in skills, technology, and their survival.
Sustainability, and translating green ambitions into practical measures to support the roofing industry, will continue to be in focus. For example, NFRC has participated in the Government’s review of substantially increasing the use of solar PV, of which obviously roofing has a key role to play. It is vital that solar design and installation on rooftops is done by individuals with the relevant roofing expertise.
However, the biggest change in construction, perhaps for generations, is now upon us. Building safety, and its associated requirements regarding competency, will have fundamental impacts on how we build from now on. The onus to get this done starts at the top, with competency requirements for principal designers and contractors enacted and the register of building control professionals live from the 1st April 2024. Initiatives such as the Code for Construction Product Information and widescale efforts to get operatives assessed for their levels of competency are key actions this year. The industry needs to take small, regular steps to higher standards. NFRC is actively working with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) and relevant stakeholders in setting relevant competency standards.
Our NFRC Competent Person Scheme (CPS) business, which now sits under the responsibility of the BSR, has a key role to play in certifying compliance and introducing mandated individual competencies. Contractors who are registered with CPS are increasingly seeing the benefit of their third-party accreditation which is an essential requirement in the regulated market. We are also continuing to roll out inspections of NFRC Trade Members through our CPS business, providing third-party independence and impartiality.
In addition to these areas of work, NFRC as a trade association will always be there to help and advise our Members with technical guidance, finding the right people for your business, and much more. We will continue to encourage community, cooperation, and the celebration of excellence through our regions, with the UK Roofing Awards, skills competitions – including this year’s international championship in Switzerland – and the many opportunities to get more involved in the work of your trade association.
Hence, while 2024 may present challenges, a wealth of opportunities certainly remain to take your business and the industry in the right direction. Those who commit to developing the skills and competency of their workforce and to following the emerging regulatory framework, should reap the rewards. If you need guidance to do so, you know where we are.