Training companies in the UK are gradually seeing an increase in demand for courses following the almost complete shutdown of services during the spring and early summer.
The Mover spoke to a number of training providers who all reported activity had increased during the late summer and autumn, although the number of courses being delivered was far lower than in recent years.
The British Association of Removers (BAR) reported that following a record year in 2019, its training service (BARTS) saw a complete cessation in demand following the lockdown in March resulting in the furloughing of all members of its training staff. BAR Director General Ian Studd said, “There was a complete lack of appetite for training at the start of the lockdown, I think everyone was focussed entirely on survival, which is quite understandable.” Training Manager Stephen Thorp added, “Whenever there is an economic crisis it’s often training that is one of the first things to suffer and the COVID crisis is no different. Even though the furlough scheme was paying companies wages it didn’t pay for training fees, so employers were reluctant to send people on courses.”
BARTS has now resumed training, which began with a pilot course in conducting video surveys, an increasingly important skill, which was very successful. All BARTS courses are presently conducted face-to-face but there are plans to introduce virtual training sessions using Zoom or a similar platform in the near future. Stephen commented, “At the moment all our training material is designed for face-to-face delivery so there is a lot of work to do to make it suitable for virtual learning. We also need to train our staff to deliver courses in that way, which is very different from teaching in a traditional classroom setting.”
In the moving industry, not all training can be delivered online of course. Teaching someone to move a grand piano or how to export pack delicate china for example must be done on site. Devising ways of maintaining social distancing and remaining COVID compliant in a physical setting will be another challenge training companies will have to deal with for the foreseeable future.
Kidds Training Services in East Yorkshire has been training removals people for over 20 years. “We tend to work with small groups of up to six, so keeping people apart isn’t really a problem,” said Philip Kidd. “We’ve run a number of courses recently, including export packing and what we call incomer’s courses for people joining the industry. It’s all very hands-on and we won’t let anyone leave until they can complete the tasks properly on their own. That way we can make sure people return to their companies more useful than when they arrived!” said Phillip.
At the time of writing (early October) the removals industry in the UK is extremely busy, partly because of a tax holiday on house purchases and a pent-up demand caused by the lockdown. With the furlough scheme coming to an end and the prospect of disruption caused by Brexit at the end of the year, it remains to be seen how the market will be affected in the coming months.
Whatever lies ahead, in the long term removals people will still need to be trained and the accelerated introduction of more online training caused by COVID may well result in a sea change to the way courses are delivered in the future.
Sending staff to a training centre miles away from their base is expensive and time consuming, and while teaching someone to move a grand piano, or a grandfather clock can’t really be taught online, many, if not all the clerical skills can be.
As the world moves towards a greener more enlightened society, we must all look for ways to reduce our impact on the environment and the amount of resources we consume. If there is an up-side to the COVID pandemic, it is perhaps that it has shown us how by using technology, some journeys we thought were essential are often unnecessary and actually a waste of time and money. As technology develops this will increasingly be the case. Switching, as far as possible, to online training is just one small part of achieving a more productive greener and at present, safer future.
A word of caution though. Personal contact and face-to-face meetings are an important part of human relations and must never be replaced by technology alone. Both play an important role in modern business and the wider society and it is up to us all to strike a healthy balance between the two.
Training in progress at the BAR head office in Watford.
Stephen Thorp, Training Manager, BAR