The role of continuous learning in creating roofs of the future

The construction industry is experiencing rapid change, new regulations, and innovative solutions that lead to new ways of working, ultimately requiring new skills and methods of installation.
aoty flat winner hero

The role of continuous learning and upskilling in creating roofs of the future

The construction industry is experiencing rapid change, new regulations, and innovative solutions that lead to new ways of working, ultimately requiring new skills and methods of installation. At the same time, an industry wide skills shortage requires new approaches to help develop skills of those in the industry, and new approaches to show how rewarding a career in construction can be. Paul Campbell, Marketing and Technical Director at BMI, discusses how the role of continuous learning and upskilling is the key to solving the skills shortage and creating the roofs of the future.

The Construction industry is in a period of great change and transformation, the housing shortage requires innovation and radical thinking, the challenges of urbanisation and expanding cities mean we need to improve our facilities and infrastructure, all whilst protecting the environment for future generations. As an industry, we have not done enough to show how rewarding and diverse a career in construction can be, and we have skills shortages as a result. Future skills are the critical success factor in designing and building our future environments. 

These changes in demand inspire innovation of materials, technologies and construction methods. The drive for sustainable solutions, the adoption of modular construction and the digitisation of data and design are great examples of how our industry is evolving. 

The overarching themes here are ensuring built performance meets every aspect of the specification, delivering lasting quality and establishing more efficient ways of working. The roofing industry plays a vital part within the wider construction sector to lead this transformation. Yet, transformations are people-led, making continuous learning and upskilling a crucial requirement for the roofer of tomorrow. 

So, what can the roofing industry do to stay ahead of the game? 

Product development and innovation inform the learning curve

To future-proof roofing, the industry is constantly finding ways to do things better, from the introduction of new regulations, such as BROOF(t4), the highest European fire rating to increase safety in flat roofs, to ensuring that new homes and buildings reduce their carbon footprint with the implementation of the upcoming changes to Part L of the Building Regulations on 15th June 2022.

With these changes in mind, roofing manufacturers are first in line to respond to the challenges by looking at ways to ensure that their products and systems meet these changing needs and regulations. As the UK’s largest roofing manufacturer, BMI, known for its leading flat roofing brand BMI Icopal and, in pitched roofing, BMI Redland, is constantly striving to ensure product safety and future-led problem solving. From championing safe working practices by means of solvent-free installation with products like Sealoflex, to new integrated solar PV solutions with PV Indax Adapt system roofers can find solutions to almost any challenge they face. 

The development of new products and systems naturally have a positive impact not only on the built environment, but on the environment at large. Innovative roofing can eliminate issues with storm water management and drainage, while new advances in bitumen membranes like BMI Icopal's Groove Technology helps minimise energy usage during installation. 

And while it is crucial to reduce carbon emissions and minimise the risk of water and energy waste, it has become increasingly evident that as an industry, we simply must do more to close the gap between design and as-built performance. The government is “looking to industry to lead culture change on the ground”. In Building a safer future, Dame Judith Hackitt’s report, she recommends the introduction of a ‘golden thread’ to support duty holders in designing, constructing and managing their buildings as holistic systems, taking into account building safety at all stages in the life cycle. This independent report calls for a reform of building safety and leads us to focus on ensuring that what we design will be safe, efficient and long-lasting in its as-built performance. For roofs to meet these criteria and align with new building regulations, innovation across materials, processes, and roofing skills is vital.

However, critical to all innovation is systems thinking and testing and validation. BMI has invested significantly in internal testing capability and partners with leading test houses to ensure that all solutions are thoroughly tested and designed for future needs in all building types. Full system thinking ensures that all products and components are designed to fit together seamlessly. 

Learning away from the rooftop 

Naturally, product development and innovation require continued learning and upskilling, not just by roofers, but by everyone who works with and around roofing. And with the industry continuing to change at such a rapid pace, anyone with a stake in roofing will want to stay ahead – and learning by simply doing might not always be enough. 

Ongoing, regular training on new products, improved methods of installation, new tools and systems can close the gap and ensure that everyone, from experienced contractors right through to apprentices, is equipped with the right skills to secure the future of UK roofing. 

Recognising the vital importance of providing support and continued learning opportunities, BMI offers many different ways to access in-depth training and skills development from project specification to planning and build, to help make sure that new products are specified and installed right first time. 

The BMI Academy offers continued learning and upskilling opportunities to everyone in the roofing and waterproofing industry. Through both theoretical and practical courses, BMI Academy helps to drive excellence in roofing, providing best practice support on how to use new and existing products and solutions prior to installation. Not just for roofers, these learning and training opportunities are also available to specifiers, architects, contractors, builders, and merchants, ensuring best practice right from the start. 

Providing solid foundations for the future of roofing

Every roof needs a strong and sturdy foundation that can weather changing times and, like the roof itself, the future of roofing is built on the talent we develop and support from the ground up.

Every year, BMI holds the Apprentice of the Year competition, inviting roofing apprentices to submit their entries to be part of a lively and challenging competition to demonstrate their roofing skills, business acumen and leadership qualities. 

Bringing together industry associations, contractors, apprentices, and colleges, the competition is just one example of how BMI seeks to inspire the future generation of roofers by showing how diverse and rewarding it can be. Julian Coulter, Company Director at Sussex Asphalt and Chairman of Mastic Asphalt Council in the UK, noted that the competition bolsters the image of the industry, highlighting the importance of apprenticeships for the wider sector. Quoting Henry Ford, Julian says that “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them, and having them stay”, highlighting the crucial importance of providing roofing apprentices and young roofers with continuous training and learning opportunities to develop their skills.

Speaking of the event, Ruth Scarrott, Head of Careers at NFRC, says “Without doing these types of events, which are really exciting opportunities for young people to show their skill set, we will just lose that interaction and interest, so why wouldn’t we provide that opportunity for young people to show us what they can do.”  

To further our commitment to ongoing training and support, during this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, BMI Academy visited colleges across the UK to deliver tailored training sessions and offer advice and practical product demonstrations to roofing apprentices and college tutors. Lecturer and Assessor Luke O’Gorman from Bolton College reflects on BMI’s visit as a “Fantastic incentive, and really useful for our first-year roof slating and tiling group to hear directly from a manufacturer about product installation and the importance of doing it correctly.” Harry Teasdale, Head of Construction at Newcastle College, echoed this sentiment about BMI’s visit to Newcastle College, noting that “the resources you provide make a huge difference to our apprentices, very much appreciated.”

Securing the future of roofing through continuous support

The future of roofing must be secured from the ground up by ensuring close collaboration between roofing manufacturers and all stakeholders across the industry, from apprentice roofers right through to housebuilders, contractors, merchants, specifiers and those developing regulations and guidance for the industry.

Providing ongoing support not just through innovative product development that makes the day-to-day life of installers and homeowners easier and safer, but through continued learning and skills development, the roofing industry will continue to be built on a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise. BMI’s flat roofing brand Icopal and pitched roofing brand Redland are paving the way for more energy-efficient, safe, and long-lasting roofing systems, but it will ultimately be the people designing, planning, installing and maintaining them that will make the difference. 

This is why BMI’s commitment to continuous learning and skills development starts from within. By ensuring that the technical teams at BMI are best equipped to innovate and adapt roofing products and advise customers on how best to meet new requirements. This expertise forms the foundation for the cultivation of future talent. The steps we take today to support and develop roofing talent at all levels will shape the construction industry of tomorrow. 

Jump to section

BMI Apprentice of the Year

BMI Apprentice of the Year

The Apprentice of the Year competition looks to reward one pitched and one flat Apprentice of the Year winner each year. The competition is different to other competitions for the construction industry as it focuses on business and marketing skills as well as technical skills, preparing the apprentice for a successful career in roofing.