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Interview with Damian Walters, Founder of BiKBBi

12/03/2021

kbb Birmingham recently caught up with Damian Waliers, Founder of the BIKBBI to learn more about his career in the installations sector and gain a better understanding of the BIKBBI's mission to bridge the skills gap by creating opportunities for their members in the year to come.

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) is the UK’s first and only government sanctioned institute dedicated to KBB installation. It was launched in 2006, as a not-for-profit registered organisation, sanctioned by the UK Secretary of State to address increasing number of consumer complaints received each year.

First of all, Damian can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

Damian Walters: My background is quite varied, actually. My background was very much from a commercial KBB installation model. My biggest gig was working with MFI, a huge furniture business of its day – but sadly departed now. My responsibility was to support the installation model of that particular business in delivering the contracted installation services on behalf of the retailer. Very complex, especially when you're working on large sorts of volumes. We were doing around 65,000 fits a year, which even by today's standards is a lot. In that sort of job, you see the good, the bad and the ugly; you see a cross section of competencies and problems and challenges. I guess that's what really sparked me to do something about the challenges that I saw.

Can you give us some background on the BIKBBI? 

DW: I think it was, I was seeing all the challenges that were there within the industry, and that there was a gap between demand and skills that needed to be bridged. The BIKBBI is the UK’s first and only institute dedicated to KBB installation. We launched in 2006 and we work with a really wide range of KBB installers, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors – we're here to make sure that standards are upheld and that customers are getting the service they paid for.

How is the BIKBBI supporting its members over the next 6 months?

DW: We’re addressing what is unarguably the industry's biggest challenge and has been for some time, and that's the skills gap crisis that we find ourselves in. If you’ve ever read any articles or listened to any podcasts that I've contributed to, you'll know it's usually what I talk about. This is because it’s a real problem and it’s something I feel very passionate about, so will be our focus over the coming months and years.

How do you think the industry will recover over the next 6 months?

DW: We've got this fantastic industry that is absolutely right to bounce back. We've got consumers that are desperate to sort of invest in their homes now and this sort of newfound love of home improvement – it’s going to be fantastic for the industry. However, the industry doesn't have enough installers there to fulfil that demand. We can be designing and creating fantastic products and fantastic trading platforms from which to sell these products, but we need enough installers to be able to fit these products to a high standard for consumers to be happy.

Are there any schemes that you think your members would benefit from this year? If so, can you tell us a bit about them.

DW: Apprenticeships are hugely important to the industry at the moment, it’s vital that we work with big and small names in the industry to deliver on training the next generation of installers – and that they’re trained to high standards too! We’re always looking for partners in the industry to deliver on this – look at Quooker for example, they’re doing a great job in leading the way with apprenticeships, having pledged a six-figure sum to develop their programme and to ensure that the industry is ready to cope with demand in 5,10, 15 years’ time.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?

DW: I’m not much of a pub person but I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to the pub when they open. Seriously though, I’m looking forward to getting back out there and to seeing new and familiar faces in our industry again.

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