A new decorating apprenticeship? 

By Pete Wlikinson


I had two phone calls this week and strangely they sort of matched up to highlight the same emerging issue. 

The first call was from a small company that specialised in refinishing uPVC windows and respraying kitchens. The chap, let’s call him Dave, had lined up a young apprentice to take on because he was so busy, and he wanted to know if any of our courses were suitable as a kind of apprenticeship leading to a full qualification. 

While our courses are great for experienced decorators who already know a lot about paint and substrates they are not really designed as a full apprenticeship. I thought about this and finally told him that he had three options. 

First, he could send his apprentice to college one day a week to do a painting and decorating apprenticeship. This would teach him a lot of skills including preparation and paint systems however it would not teach him much (if any depending on the college) spraying skills or masking processes. It would however give him a qualification. 

The other option would be to do a car spraying course which would teach him all about spraying and masking but in the world of cars and not houses which was not really suitable either. 

Finally, he could train him up himself and maybe send the apprentice on some of our short courses to get his skill level up. While we would give him a certificate, he would not get a recognised NVQ or apprenticeship framework. 

Dave was left with a bit of a dilemma and I felt that I could have helped him better. We ended the conversation with “things need to change” and “I will send him to you in a couple of years once he gets some experience”. 

After the phone call I thought about this.  

Dave is not the only person in this situation, there are many companies out there that have specialised in spraying/decorating and their work is very different to what a traditional decorator would do.  

While they could send their keen young person on a standard decorating course, I feel that it would be in many cases a waste of time, they do not need to know how to do graining or hang wide vinyl for example and also, I feel that it would demotivate the young person.  

Spraying is seen as pretty cool by the younger generation, mainly because it is however the average experience at college doing a decorating course is far from cool. I know, I used to work in a college. 

Then I had a second phone call later in the week from an “onsite assessor” who does painting and decorating NVQ’s. It was a lady called Wendy and I know her both from my college days and also more recently some of our students have been and got their NVQ (for free) though the North West Skills Academy where Wendy now works. 

She wanted to thank me for sending so many candidates her way and we chatted about how they had gotten on with their NVQ’s. Then we got chatting about how many of the decorators that were coming to see her wanted more spraying training than just decorating. She wanted to know if we offered a full spraying course that would lead to a full NVQ.  

Wow, the same question but from a completely different angle.  

We chatted about the same issues that Dave had been having but this time it was that experienced decorators were working on apartments and new build houses, but they were just spraying. Not a brush and roller in sight. To get their NVQ though they had to demonstrate brushing and rolling (even though they were not doing any) and this seemed to both the guys being assessed and to the assessor as a bit pointless. 

We discussed the possibility of developing a new qualification for all the guys out there going down this road and how it was needed by the industry. We are not talking about replacing the current decorating qualification but developing a new one to sit alongside it. This would give decorators a choice. 

I have thought about this a lot because one of the things that I have found myself on my own decorating jobs is that changing a roller and brush for a sprayer changes everything. More than you would imagine, more than I ever imagined myself. It changes the paint that you use, the order that you do things, the time you spend on the different processes, and finally the end result and the money that you make. 

All these things need to be taught to decorators (those who want to know) so that it is easier to make the steps into this new world easily, I think a new qualification would help with that, especially for the younger generation who are coming into our industry. 



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