Get on board the manufacturer-led training for upskilling, supplied by drylining specialist Knauf.
Professional Builder has reported before on the training centres run by Knauf at its plasterboard plants in Immingham and Sittingbourne, but it is a provision which is now set to develop still further. Demonstrating its long-term commitment to the provision of expert training, the manufacturer has been working with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and has just announced that all of its 13 courses are now fully accredited.
The courses cover the full range of products and systems: from floors to ceilings, from partitions to exteriors, and, of course, the drylining products for which the company is best known.
Staffed by qualified, experienced instructors, the training centres represent a major investment at the site, but the company regards this as a necessary way to support the introduction of innovative product solutions into the contractor market.
It’s all very well to read about a new product, but far better to get first-hand instruction on how best to deal with it on site.
As Knauf’s training services manager, Chris Lee explains: “We are increasingly finding that site workers are looking to diversify their skillset to ensure their skills remain up to date in a rapidly changing industry. Attending one of our training courses allows them to gain new skills in a safe training environment.”
With the working contractor very much in mind, the courses are designed to run over just one or two days. Skills are assessed before certificates are awarded, and attendees can expect to be contacted for a follow-up assessment within twelve months.
As the courses are CITB accredited they are eligible for funding under the CITB levy system. Knauf is also working with Dragon Training and Recruitment, specialists in providing training to NVQ levels across the drylining industry, who support the Airless spray course with the relevant modules to secure NVQ2 status.
The Knauf Airless spray course, covering the Ready-mixed Finishes (RMF) system, is consistently one of the most popular amongst tradespeople. This course introduces contractors to the spray method of plaster finish application, allowing attendees to produce a finished wall ready for decorating without necessarily needing to employ a traditionally-trained plasterer – it’s a great way to expand the range of services provided on a job without increasing the size of the team.
The course is very thorough and trainers are also happy to visit sites to provide support with machine maintenance, answer specific application questions and give suggestions on the tasks that are most appropriate for ready-mixed finishing.
The Knauf trainers estimate that a two-day course, followed by three to four weeks’ experience are sufficient to get the best results – very different to the time and practice needed to perfect traditional plastering.
Courses are attended not only by experienced dryliners, but from people with a range of experience, looking to broaden the scope of their expertise.
One recent course attendee learning the spray finish techniques was Jennifer Gardner, a self-employed decorator with no previous experience in plastering. “I have been interested in learning how to plaster for some time, but I was worried it would make a pre-existing shoulder injury worse. However, when I learned about Knauf Airless I realised this might be something I could do. After all, I already use spray paint, so it didn’t seem like too much of a jump to learn this method.”
The ease with which the product is applied is one of its key attractions: the strain on the neck and shoulders that comes with a full day of traditional plastering is significantly reduced – a bonus for some of the more mature building contractors looking to add new skills to their portfolio.
Being able to achieve a consistently smooth finish with minimal snagging and doing so much faster than traditional plastering is also attractive. Jen Gardner was certainly impressed: “It was much easier to use than I expected and I’m interested in learning more so I can make this part of my full-time job.”
The thirteen courses are mainly very practical, but with some classroom-based theory to support the practical skills. They are aimed at any size of contractor, from self-employed individuals with decades of experience looking to add new skills, to newcomers looking to expand on the training completed in colleges.
As well as the specific product and system training, learners can now attend an increasingly popular Site Management course. This is designed to help contractors to run sites more efficiently, and give some context, providing a better understanding of the systems they are working alongside.
Like many manufacturers, Knauf is keen to provide training and/or guidance to both contractors and specifiers. In 2020 it is looking to support a better relationship between the communities by running a series of “meet the contractor” days at its Clerkenwell showroom. The idea is to give current and curious applicators the opportunity to meet design managers and architects.