Roof Training- Let’s Get Back to Basics

Roofing training with ladders

Denise Cherry, Group Training Officer of the Yorkshire Independent Roof Training Group, here discusses the increasing numbers of roofing apprentices and training resources available for them. She explains the training programs on offer and when they are appropriate.

AS WE EMERGE AGAIN from a national lockdown, the demand for roofing training continues to increase, attempting to address the continuing skill shortage in the roofing industry.

At the same time, apprentice demand is high – young people want to join the roofing industry, companies want to take them on, and, certainly, the industry needs to recruit the next generation of roofers.

Apprentice demand in Yorkshire is good this year, with an unprecedented rise in enquiries following steady growth over the last few years. It seems that companies are committed to ‘growing’ their own talent after being unable to secure adequately skilled operatives through advertising and word of mouth.

Recently, a company approached me saying they had taken on four young people as apprentices. I had to tell them that currently there is not a suitable learning programme available locally to provide training for the new recruits.  Fortunately, in this case, the apprentices could form the core of a group to allow delivery to be arranged. However, this means we will need to reinvent the wheel and secure funding, training, equipment etc.

Resources Matching Demand

The bigger picture take home is, that a rise in demand, needs a rise in resources. However, there are currently insufficient training places for the apprentices that are coming forward. Government incentives for apprenticeships are very welcome, but we need a strong infrastructure to support those potential apprentices.

On the plus side, the Government’s enhanced funding for new apprentices from 1 April 2021 offers companies up to £4,000 per new apprentice recruited. Now, the roofing industry needs to ensure it has matching increased capacity to deliver a wide range of apprentice programmes across the UK.

Current uptake of Specialist Applied Skills Programmes is good. For example, programmes recently started in the North East in Liquid Applied Membranes through LRWA, and Roof Slating and Tiling through the Wales National Roof Training Group. Langley Waterproofing is delivering the Flat Roofing Trailblazer in both Daventry and the North West.

The industry needs a more collective and joined up approach to structured courses and training. It needs to come together to assist companies to benefit from government funding initiatives, including Kickstart and apprenticeship recruitment grants.

The National Roof Training Group, through the regional roof training groups, offers guidance and support to businesses, including on CITB’s Skills and Training Fund for more general training.

So to Business As Usual – Roof Training

Alongside apprentices, standard roofing training also continues with good levels of demand. A safe working environment is a healthy, supportive site promoting fairness, equality and good mental and physical health.

Roof Safety and Access remain vitally important, as the 2019/2020 HSE statistics show that there were 40 fatal injuries from falls, slightly up on the 5-year average of 37 per year and this figure cannot be allowed to rise further, towards the one per week high before roof safety improved.

To help businesses identify and access the training they need, the National Roof Training Group has recently clarified classifications of roof training, particularly those that are CITB Grant Eligible Training, as follows:

UK Roof Training Pyramid

Roof Access – Covering all methods of access to roofs in a safe and secure manner.  Including Management of Roof Access and Risk Assessment.

Roof Safety – To include safety courses specific to roofing, covering a range of topic including fragile roofs, fall protection, fall arrest, fire, rescue and emergency procedures

Roof Coverings – To cover all types of roof coverings and ancillary products. Includes short duration ‘just in time’ training, to meet new project and emerging needs. This type of training is also ideal for filling knowledge and experience gaps for time served operatives.

Roof Qualifications – which bring together all the skills of access, safety and roof coverings together in the form of qualifications.   Qualifications bring together the core skills at an appropriate level to the job role, and offer a clear indication of the competence of the operative, installer or manager in their particular discipline.  Routes to qualification vary and a robust classification of training towards qualifications is essential to offer routes to qualification which meet the needs of our industry and the skill levels, competencies and learning preferences of our workforce.

Roof Management includes the safety, technical, and management skills required by a modern manager, including interpersonal skills which will lead the workforce upwards to an appropriate level for each individual.

Construction Classics

There are also the core construction courses that still play a part in industry training: those mainstream courses that are essential across a range of trades and disciplines. These can be separated into two main categories.

The Site Safety Plus Scheme which includes the one-day Health Safety and Environment Course, a prerequisite for obtaining the initial CSCS Green Labourer, or Red Trainee Card; the Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme and the Site Managers Safety Training Scheme, alongside the Directors Role for Health and Safety.  These are all recognised industry courses, but no less useful to roofing companies, as their content is valuable to most construction workers (at the appropriate level).

We must also recognise the short course staples of generic Manual Handling, Abrasive Wheels, Asbestos Awareness, and First Aid, which are useful for certification and pre-qualifications such as CHAS, ConstructionLine and others.  These basic courses provide minimum elementary knowledge alongside Toolbox Talks and Company and Site Inductions.

All training is valuable and has its place – let’s be clear on our priorities and make the roofing industry, safer, more competent, qualified and an even better place to work.

Headshot of Roofing Training Officer

Denise has 30 years’ experience in training, with 15 years in construction skills contexts. She won the Pitched Roofing Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Roofing Industry in 2019. She is a director of the Roofing Industry Alliance and a co-founder of Women in Roofing.