In a new regular series, Professional Builder showcases the training opportunities available to tradespeople. This month we visit the Ardex Academy at Haverhill in Suffolk.
If you think you have nothing to learn then the building industry will quickly teach you a lesson to the contrary. Consumer trends, changing materials and technologies – not to mention regulatory requirements – all make change a part of the natural order, and it is here that training and upskilling will become your ally. Not only that but, at a time when so many trades are in short supply, ensuring your skillset is up-to-date is simply sensible business practice.
One company that already has an enviable level of technical knowledge at its disposal is Ardex, and it is communicating that expertise to its customers through its Haverhill-based Academy. Combining both a seated theory and hands-on practical area in one flexible space, this modern facility allows for either demonstrations from instructors, or for builders themselves to take up their tools.
“The Ardex Academy as a concept has taken on the status of a brand in itself,” enthuses national training manager, Steve Davies. “We consider training to be a significant part of the service we provide our customers, and last year over 4,500 people attended one of our courses, whilst the target for 2019 is over 5,000.” Indeed, whilst the flooring and tiling specialist can boast 53 subsidiaries around the world, there are only five sites that have been awarded Academy status, with a stringent level of quality demanded to earn that standing from its international headquarters in Germany.
At present, the Suffolk site will host 2 – 3 classes a week, but the company also maintains four mobile vans that deliver on site instruction – in addition to site surveys and technical support – whilst there is a further Ardex training facility in Stoke-on-Trent. Moreover, the manufacturer also supports a network of FE colleges around the country, and will conduct its own tuition at these, whilst additional convenient locations can be utilised if required.
Steve outlines exactly how builders can benefit: “We’re increasingly seeing people coming on our courses because they’re looking to multi-skill, and we cover a full range of flooring, tiling and building topics. As well as that, we need to react quickly to market trends by developing solutions tailored to the latest fashions, and our training needs to keep pace.”
In recent years, for instance, large format tiles have found favour, and, with sizes up to 2.5m now being supplied – often in materials that will diverge from the more customary stone or ceramic – they represent a specialist product. In response, Ardex has worked with tile makers to develop appropriate bonding technologies, whilst it also delivers a course to instruct tilers in their installation. “Our Large Format Tiling Course is a good example of the comprehensive approach we take. They can effectively be panels rather than tiles, and getting them to stick on the walls is just one of the challenges. That’s why we’ll collaborate with other companies to make sure that tradespeople are fully conversant with how to cut them, as well as addressing issues like safe transportation. Luxury vinyl tiles are equally very much in vogue, a subject which is covered in our Subfloor Preparation & LVT Installation Course.”
Whenever a major swimming pool project is undertaken it is Ardex that will get the call to supply not only product but expertise, and its Pool & Wet Leisure Tiling Course brings together all that technical proficiency. A Subfloor Preparation & Introduction into Installing Safety Flooring in a Wet Room, will instruct in everything from moisture testing, to dealing with smoothing and levelling compounds. Adds Steve: “The vast majority of failures in flooring jobs are down to poor preparation, which makes this a very popular course for us, and one that even the most time served floor layer will find useful. Similarly, gypsum-based anhydrite screeds are still not very well understood, causing on site issues as a consequence, which is why we’re now delivering an Identification and Preparation of an Anhydrite/Calcium Sulphate Screed Course.
“Some of the professionals on our courses can be very experienced indeed, but they will tell us that they’ve learnt something new from attending,” concludes Steve, “and that is our real objective – to ensure that builders have the skills to get the most from our products.”