association comment

Careers advice S

AMDEA chief executive Douglas Herbison believes the appliance repair and maintenance sector needs new blood to keep up with demand – and training is available to help

ummer means exam results. Cue the perennial debates about the rigour of national testing; exams versus

coursework; and whether too few/too many teenagers stay in education/fail to achieve their potential. And decisions being made about what to do next. Successive governments have raised the school leaving age and promoted degrees as the only path to fame and fortune. But now that going to university means embracing at least a decade of debt, young people are looking for other options. For the discerning school leaver an

apprenticeship offers a training route that allows them to earn (albeit very little) while they learn. The Electrical, Electronic Service and

Installation Engineer apprenticeship covers the installation, service and repair of electrical and electronic appliances in both domestic and commercial properties. Normally a three-year course, apprentices

may be new or current employees, and there is government funding available as a

sweetener for the employer. It is also possible to take qualifications independently of an apprenticeship. For more details go to www., the central website for household electrical and electronic servicing training. Our industry is changing. A growing

number of products are no longer just unpacked and plugged in – they need professional installation, if only because they are too complicated for the average consumer to set up by themselves! Modern versions of even traditional white goods contain complex electronics which require expert diagnosis of any fault, even if the parts are easy to replace or can even be reprogrammed remotely. With sustainability high on the agenda

there is also a renewed interest in repairing goods rather than replacing them. Though this is not necessarily recommended for ageing appliances where new models may be much more energy efficient than their predecessors. But, just as demand for such skills is

increasing, many of the current specialists are reaching retirement age and too few new people are entering the industry.

Some of this sorry situation can be

attributed to the decline in the UK’s manufacturing sector - certain appliance categories are no longer made in this country at all. But the UK is a relatively affluent country and the average household owns over 50 electrical items, all expected to last forever, unless replaced by a desirable upgrade. Manufacturers, and retailers, may have their own workforce to install and repair their products; others use third party service providers. Consumers can also pay for warranties and/or service plans. But for these services to be available we need a fresh supply of trained personnel. There are courses available; training

providers eager to deliver them; and even government funding to help with the cost. We just need employers who are willing to invest in the future.

• AMDEA is the UK trade association for manufacturers of large and small domestic appliances. It has 35 member companies who between them manufacture over 100 brands

Unfair burden of business rates

Retra chief executive Howard Saycell believes business rates need to be on the government’s agenda, and looks ahead to the association’s annual conference in 2019


ouse of Fraser is only the most recent in a long line of High Street retail catastrophes, but it seems

the sound of its collapsing bricks and mortar has finally rumbled its way into the House of Parliament. Chancellor Philip Hammond has publicly

acknowledged the problem that the current Business Rates structure puts an unfair burden on prime-location retail stores compared to internet sellers based in far lower rate areas out of town.

The issue has been campaigned on by

retra and the BRC for many years. Rhetoric from the government suggests the issue is at least now on the agenda, largely thanks to a Treasury select committee report. That suggested the committee was increasingly concerned about the burden of business rates in the retail sector and it would look at

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business rates again as part of its Autumn Budget inquiry. However, in a response statement in July, the Chancellor said that he would find a better way of taxing the digital economy to help level the playing field. There was no appetite to reduce current High Street rates or even freeze them. Mr Hammond cited the 2016 review of business rates which found that there was “no consensus on an alternative base”. With retailers already paying almost £8bn in business rates, facing rising staff costs, increasing legislation and low consumer confidence as we roller-coaster towards Brexit, the government’s response has all the hallmarks of being too little, too late. Time will tell. In more upbeat news, I am pleased to announce that the retra Annual Industry Conference will return in March 2019 with a different location and a different format. The

venue is set for the Hilton Hotel in Coventry, on March 26 next year. Having listened to many members requests to move conference outside of London, the new central-UK venue will make the event much more accessible to the vast majority of the membership. The conference will be a one-day event,

and we are forgoing the evening event and gala dinner. The move is designed to make the event more business focused, tighter and more affordable as many members can travel to and from the conference in a day. We are currently in the early planning stages, but more details will be forthcoming in the next few months. What we can reveal is that we have once again secured Declan Curry as conference chair and the keynote speaker will be the British Retail Consortium’s Helen Dickenson. With the timing just a few days before Brexit, it is likely to be extremely topical! Put the date in your diary now.

September 2018

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