WFF sets the standard for worktop companies

Simon Souter: “If we get this right, it will finally enable fabricators to recognise their employees’ skills with a fit-for-purpose qualification which will be accepted right across the industry, and by both employers and customers.”

If clients are seeking proof a worktop company is competent, it’s probably best for the company if the industry has decided what ‘competence’ actually looks like. 

That’s the reasoning of the Worktop Fabricators Federation (WFF) as it embarks in earnest on the road towards making recognised, accredited and fit-for-purpose vocational qualifications available for everyone across the fabricating and installing sector.

WFF director Simon Souter says: “Since Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into the Grenfell Tower fire recommended a quality culture change, the whole building industry has been running around trying to work out what ‘competency’ looks like in their particular sector.

“The WFF is all about recognising quality and improving standards across the worktop fabricator community.  So it’s natural for us to get the industry together – first to decide what ‘good’ really looks like; second to develop an Ofqual-recognised framework to start recognising fabricators’ competence to a nationally-agreed standard.”  

In a small association headed by its members, the thought of developing a worktop fabrication qualification from scratch was a daunting prospect. But after several months of investigation and discussion, the WFF is now close to agreement to develop a qualification from one originally produced for shopfitters, but adjusted to reflect the competences of the worktop fabricator community.

The plan is to offer a core NVQ certificate in workshop best practice, suitable for everyone who handles and processes slabs into worktops. This will cover product handling, setting up and using machinery, inspection and quality control, all built around a core foundation of health & safety good practice.

Additional ‘pathway’ modules will then lead to a Diploma qualification, taking in delivery, installation, customer service and templating.

“It’s still early days, but we are very encouraged by how well the National Occupational Standards can be mapped to fit our industry’s requirements,” says Simon Souter. 

“The whole emphasis of these qualifications is around best practice, on-the-job assessment and recognising employees’ skills and competences. There’s no need to take staff off the tools, put them in a classroom and teach them what they already know. Rather, the process is about capturing and measuring the skills they use on a day to day basis and confirming they come up to what the industry benchmark standards demand.

“The next stage is to share the outline with WFF members and suppliers at our first post-Covid face-to-face meeting taking place on 13 July at Intermac in Daventry.”

The Dame Hackitt agenda has given a fillip to the WFF agenda established when it was founded just over a year ago.

“We always wanted to develop qualifications to recognise our staff’s abilities,” says Simon, “but now ‘competency’ is starting to appear on pre-tender documents it’s moved from a nice-to-have to a genuine commercial necessity.

“If we get this right, it will finally enable fabricators to recognise their employees’ skills with a fit-for-purpose qualification which will be accepted right across the industry, and by both employers and customers.”

Anyone interested in learning more about fabricator competency qualifications should contact Chris Pateman, WFF General Secretary: 07366 391105 / [email protected] He is also the contact for anyone wanting to join the WFF open meeting at machinery company Intermac’s Technical Centre in Daventry, Northamptonshire, on 13 July. All are welcome. Registration starts at 10am for a 10.30 start.