Peter Matthews: covering all bases.

BMF training: part of the bigger picture

Published:  18 June, 2010

LONDON: The BMF's in-company training solutions offer the flexibility of bespoke training. A merchant can select from different from a range of industry-specific courses dealing with core business needs and even receive special 'tailor-made' courses that can take place either at the merchant's premises or at a venue of their choice – all at competitive prices. Lisa Arcangeli reports.

"In-company training can benefit a business by reducing staff time away from the workplace and eliminate travel costs," said Peter Matthews, secretary of the Builders' Merchants Federation.

"Last year, we saw a downturn in training across the board, along with everything else. People were focusing on survival and protecting their bottom line. What training did go on was chiefly aimed at improving customer-driven activity – looking at margins, telephone selling and customer-centred core training," he explained.

Although no-one can be sure just how bad things may get, there is a growing feeling within merchants that this is the time to start developing their people.

Business Degrees and MBAs have their place, but there needs to be something more tailored for the merchant market. "There has been remarkable growth in our Diploma in Merchanting training," Mr Matthews related.

"This is a personal development programme that has nine modules and workshops. The entire programme takes about 18 months."

The Diploma course covers all the managerial skills an individual needs to have in order to progress in any business and to make headway in merchanting in particular, he pointed out. Since April, 22 merchants have enrolled on the latest course.

"Nothing stands still and we are looking at ways to improve and develop the whole concept of the diploma and mapping it to first-year degree entitlement," he commented.

The Diploma is being run country-wide. There are currently three groups - in the North, London and the South West. The BMF's objective is to set up more groups as demand dictates.

"The BMF Diploma is the core management development training course," he said. "It is geared for people who are on the journey of progressing through their companies."

BMF is also planning to offer a 'business school course' for senior managers who want to be brought up to speed with modern management thinking or who want to test themselves against the disciplines of the management processes, akin to those currently being offered outside of this industry by the likes of Ashridge Business School or the Cranfield School of Management.

BMF's plan, Mr Matthews said, is to run this senior manager development programme as four two-day workshops with overnight accommodation, spread over a year. "There is enough variety within the merchant sector to enable people to benefit from such a high-intensity course," he explained.

Many of BMF's other courses are already geared towards management. Its new Renewables Awareness training course enables merchants to get to grips with an entirely new market, and one that could prove to be very lucrative, too, Mr Matthews stated.

Although there are already a number of management courses out in the wider market, Mr Matthews believes that "BMF will ensure that the industry receives 'start-to-finish' training – from induction through to product knowledge and education on specific topics right through to higher end management."

For merchants who may have come from a different strand of learning, like the Apprenticeship Scheme, BMF training will help them to move on through the product side of the business and on to the Diploma.

"Our training has various streams for whatever level of the business the candidate is at – or at whatever speed they want to join the courses. Management training is part of the bigger picture that makes up the whole BMF training service," he stated.

A report on the industry's comprehensive approach to training is in the June edition of Builders' Merchants News.

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