MAKING SPACE FOR TRADESWOMEN, AND INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION

Alana Madden joined the Falkus Family in 2018 as a bench hand. Having previously worked as an interior designer she later made the decision to retrain and pursue a career in joinery.  Outside of the workshop Alana possesses an unrelenting passion for social change and activism and spent five-months interviewing tradeswomen from around the world. Alana sits among the new wave generation of joiners and we were impressed with her yearning for change so caught up with her to discover what we could learn.

How did you first get into joinery?

I previously worked as an interior designer and it was through this that I developed a curiosity for woodworking. I started working on a few personal projects but lacked the skill set to build anything well. After a lot of soul searching, I made the decision to retrain and enrolled on to a bench joinery course. I learned the basics from the course and later took on an apprenticeship with a joinery firm.

Joinery-work-bench

Over the years you’ve devoted your time to connecting with trade’s women, what was the motivation for this?

During my time at that workshop, it became alarmingly apparent that there was a real lack of female woodworkers. I wanted to know what could be done to change this so I desperately began to seek them out. I didn’t know it then but this curiosity would later take me on a five-month journey to America and Japan to meet tradeswomen from a variety of backgrounds. It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to interview them, share their stories, and celebrate their work.

Describe the process and the inspiration for setting up the WMWOH website

When I began my mission I had it in mind that I wanted to set up a women’s group. I started doing a lot of research into funding for training and read lots of oral history books. These were all set in America and it made me want to interview them and get their view on things. This became a great way to connect with other women and I started hosting interviews about their lives and motivations. There’s a real lack of female trade workers worldwide and I wanted to discover what could be done to instigate change.

After a rigorous application process I was sponsored to go to America and later Japan and conducted another 60 interviews. Today these interviews exist as an archive that available online, Women in Manual Work Oral Histories (WMWOH). It’s very niche but I think they’re really important and interesting and will help us develop solutions to encourage more women into the trades.

Some inspirational interviews from trades women. Archived on the Women in Manual Work, Oral Histories website. 

What were the stories that inspired you?

During this journey, I met so many inspiring women so it’s hard to choose. One that comes to mind is the carpenter I met who set up a group called Black Women Build Baltimore.

This group promotes social and economic freedom for black women through a home ownership initiative that provides trade-related training, comprehensive life-skills support, and a guided opportunity for home ownership. It facilitates the community in building and renovating properties. Once a project is completed and the women have built up a kind of ‘sweat equity’ they can take ownership of the house. It was humbling see how these women had all come together to inspire community and social change. I became a committed listener and sharer of their stories to help inspire the next generation of women to take up tools and help build a better more sustainable and diverse future together. I found it inspiring to hear of their achievements and it subsequently helped guide my career.  

From everything you’ve learned what could the industry do to encourage more women to get into joinery and construction?

We need to reshape social views and present this career path as an option to women at an earlier stage. Due to industry biases, there’s not enough access, which is reflected in the dramatically low entry numbers. 15-18 is such a crucial age when choosing your career so we need to make this a viable option. We need to get into schools and speak to the teachers and incentivise them to prioritise this. Specialist trades are suffering from a skills shortage, and it doesn’t help that 50% of the population feel excluded.

I hope we get to a point where more women are being recognised and celebrated for their work.

Do you think that some women might feel that physical capacity could hold them back?

I think that anyone can be a joiner and that as people we have more similarities than differences. One person’s strength could be overshadowed by another’s creativity.

Often there’s a view that if you’re physically strong than that automatically qualifies you as the right person for the job. However, everyone has their limits; it’s more the case that if you look the part then often your limits are viewed as being acceptable. If you stand out or don’t fit the mould then more often than not you’re met with scrutiny.   

In joinery, I think you need to use every tool in your belt. If you’re lacking in physical strength, you might find that you’re quicker in other areas so use what you have. I appreciate that that’s very general and it’s a complex topic, but overall I think any obstacles can be overcome.

Bench-joiner-at-work

What do you think the future holds for joinery?

Ultimately I think bespoke joinery will be phased out as we become more of an IKEA nation. The throwaway culture is as prominent as ever and building things to last seem less important. On one hand machines are more accurate and faster. However, the industry is slow moving and the technology that exists will take longer to develop. This lack of innovation in joinery technology could be our saving grace.

It takes decades to develop new joinery machinery, with the CNC being a prime example. New machinery still requires a level of skill to operate so we’re possibly a long way off from automation. When that happens the industry will hopefully have evolved or and we up skilled and moved on to the next tool. A lot of joiners struggle to afford new machinery so the process of buying and up-skilling could be problematic.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future I hope to find a way to combine my two passions, the first being joinery, the second, grassroots community organising. I’d love to have my own workshop or COOP aimed at offering accessible training to communities, particularly women.

I want to help people who are often overlooked by society and those who are fighting for an alternative society. There’s always room for growth so I’m looking to develop outreach in those areas and hoping for positive change. I have experienced success when working with 18-24-year-olds; these can often be the most defining years of a person’s life, so I want to help guide and support.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Continue for more joinery news. 

TOUR DE FORCE: MONTPELIER TO MONACO

Berkeley Bike Ride

This week, clients Pantera Carpentry embarked on the Berkeley bike ride and cycled a whopping 305 miles from Montpelier-to-Monaco. Comprised of 15 cyclists and two support vans, the group’s sole aim was raising money for charity partner, Home-Start London.

Home-Start is a local community network who delivers effective support to vulnerable families with young children through challenging times. Last year Home-Start supported 56,000 children in 27,000 families, in communities across the UK.

Inspired by the riders’ determination to raise money for such a worthwhile cause we too wanted to do our bit and so pledged to sponsor the rides with custom made water bottles to help keep them hydrated. 

BERKELEY-BIKE-WATER-BOTTLES
Falkus-Joinery-custom-water-bottles

On day two the riders met their match and were challenged by the rough terrains and steep ascents of the legendary Mont Ventoux (Part of the Tour De France). It was an incredible feat and the team celebrated their success with some very well deserved local wine.  

Despite aches and general fatigue the team showed incredible resilience throughout the trip and despise the rain spirits remained high. The collective group have stated that this was one of the best experiences of their lives are already potting their next adventure.

Berkeley-Bike-riders-group-picture

We’re incredibly proud of the impressive achievements of the group and would like to congratulate them on their success. It’s not every day that you meet a group of people who are crazy enough to take on Mont Ventoux. Collectively the team raised a staggering £140K for a great cause. For the fully story and images check out the official Berkeley Cycle website, and for more information on how you could get involved and fundraise for a great case check out this link.   

Berkeley-Homes-bike-ride

We hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed writing it. Continue reading for more news and views. 

THE JOINERY MAKES MACMILLAN CANCER SUPPORT OUR PRINCIPLE CHARITY

Macmillan logo

This September our amazing staff baked up a storm in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. This incredible charity remains close to our hearts and we were thrilled to be part of World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

Sadly, each year almost 120,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer. Many of our employees had a personal connection to the cause and felt passionately doing their bit to kick cancer once and for all.

With this motivation in mind, the Jerram Group have named Macmillan as our principle charity of choice. Going forward, the Group has made a pledge to host future fundraising events to support of the charity’s cause.

Falkus Joinery Macmillan Coffee-morning

The day was a success, and we were proud to present a cheque to Macmillan and help the cause. Together with our sister company we were able to raise £593.96 for this amazing charity.

We want to thank everyone who baked, bought, and donated to the event, because no matter how big or small the donation, every penny counts.

BIM FOR SUBCONTRACTORS – ARE YOU READY?

2011 the UK Government published the Construction Strategy mandating the use of Level 2, 3D Collaborative Building Information Modelling (BIM) on all central government construction projects by 2016, irrespective of project value.
Fast forward to the present, and we are increasingly seeing projects being built twice, one digitally and the other perfectly on site.

Through the implementation of BIM we have been able to construct buildings and infrastructure digitally, which has allowed organizations to identify and resolve issues prior to the start of construction, which has led to reduced risk and error and has attributed to increased efficiency and profit.

BIM software visualization

But what impact will this have on subcontractors and small businesses that are faced with financial barriers?

When the mandate was first imposed for 2016, a number of architects and main contractors were already able to deliver projects in BIM, allowing them to sail through the chain of custody without a hitch. Although great for some, this, unfortunately, had a negative effect on small business and subcontractors who were unable to adapt as quickly and comply with new regulations, which has led to the loss of opportunities and work and poses the threat of liquidation.

Despite the benefits of BIM being undeniable, the sky-high fees have presented significant barriers for smaller business and specialist subcontractors as they struggle to justify the value of the software and weigh up the return of investment.

For some specialists with fewer than five employees, such as joinery, fit-out companies, plasters etc. the obstacles have overwhelmed them and created a reluctance to up skill, which to their detriment has prevented them from being able to work with as many main contractors who have now started to demand BIM as a compulsory requirement.

How will main contractors overcome the skill shortage in specialist sectors?

With the construction industry facing a skill shortage in specialist sectors, main contractors are also facing hardships as they struggle to find a highly skilled workforce that is compliant and able to take on the work.With both parties experiencing the knock-on effects of the mandate, it’s clear that there is a definite training defect within the industry that needs to be addressed.

Funding and support from main contractors

Although things may seem bleak for the small business owner, having a niche trade could, in fact, prove to be in their favour, especially if they have pre-existing or long-standing partnerships with main contractors.

In order for organizations to start a BIM project, they must first demonstrate that they are able to deliver in the environment and that all parties involved in the project are onboard with the process from the get-go. This means that main contractors are faced with two options. They either need to train their supply chain or seek out new suppliers who are BIM compatible.

Although both options present various pros and cons, the latter may present greater risks if the main contractor is unfamiliar with their work, which could lead to potential delays if the new supplier is unreliable. With the being said the main contractor might also find that the pool of specialist contractors is a sparse one to choose from.

Black and white meeting in progress

Who is responsible for implementing BIM?

Without having a BIM compatible supply chain, main contractors will struggle to deliver on projects, and equally, without upskilling the workforce, subcontractors will face a loss. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that BIM was implemented to promote collaboration across the supply chain.

As it stands if you’re a small business who is at risk of being left behind, now is the time to take action as neither party can thrive without the other.

Although there is still a long way to go in terms of establishing responsibility for implementing BIM, seeking the support of the main contractor can lead to benefits for both parties. By simply asking main contractors about the tools and processes they have in place to implement BIM on a relevant project, will help open doors and will lay the foundations for a better understanding of what’s expected from both sides in terms of training and responsibility, and will help the specialist contractor overcome obstacles and remain a key part of the supply chain.

CELEBRATING 60 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

This January marks Falkus Joinery’s 60th Anniversary as joinery manufacturers and industry leaders. Established by the Jerram brothers in 1957, the duo set up shop in Shoreditch and built a lasting legacy. This family run business has grown from strength-to-strength and to this day remains at the fore front of joinery innovation.    

The London joinery has stood the test of time and we believe that’s due to the workshops unwavering passion for joinery. Our fierce investment in people has developed a strong family culture and a dedication to responsible purchasing has safeguarded sustainability. This careful consideration leaves us feeling confident that we’ll continue to uphold this long-standing trade and thrive.

Today, Falkus Joinery works across a wide range of joinery sectors, and specialises in: 

  • Bespoke kitchens
  • kitchen cabinets and doors 
  • Skirting 
  •  Bathroom joinery 
  • Vanity units 
  • Commercial office fit-outs 
  • Bleachers 
  • Custom made staircases 
  • Handmade furniture 
  • joinery fittings 
  • Bespoke doors 
  • Sash windows 
  •  Staircase manufacture and instillation 
  • Custom made reception desks 
  • Wall paneling 
  • Bespoke wardrobes 
  • Office furniture 
  • And everything else in between 

A brief history of Falkus Joinery

Founded by the Falkus family as an independent joinery manufacturer, the company prospered and were therefore looking to expand. When meeting with the Jerram’s it was agreed that it would be mutually beneficial to merge companies and expand their collective business offerings.

For both companies a successful partnership ensued over the decades which has allowed the collective to thrive and expand into new sectors. Today the Jerram Group is comprised of four divisions: Jerram Falkus Construction, Falkus Joinery, Jerram Development and Jerram Falkus. As a croup we’ll continue to develop with the times and provide high-end construction and joinery service to the UK.  

Take a journey through the decades and discover our combined history with the Jerram Group. We hope that you find this just as interesting as we did.

Falkus-Joinery-timeline

The future

Looking back it’s clear to see that we’ve come a long way and we’re thrilled to see that traditional joinery is a trade that continues to flourish in this increasingly digital age.

It’s difficult to see what the future has in store for our joinery manufacturer but we look forward to what may come and to celebrating the next 60!