Thursday, January 21, 2016

Getting back on top of the technical agenda

Paul McLaughlin, BESA Chief Executive

In my last blog just before Christmas, I brought you up to speed with the progress we had made in my first 100 days as chief executive of the BESA.
We are now about to unveil the new brand and the new strategy shaped over that period; so this seems like the right time to drill down a bit further into the detail.

The start of 2016 feels like the right time for a relaunch because the industry stands at a crossroads. Contractors have survived a very ugly and long recession – a bit battered and bruised, but leaner and more focused on what is profitable and what is not. At the same time, the emerging economy has found even greater need for specialist building engineers, who understand how to turn a vision of energy efficient, ultra-modern buildings into reality.

However, suitable skills are in short supply and integrating modern methods of construction into supply chains is proving tricky. Labour costs are rising and crucial raw materials are in short supply so many contractors are simply turning down bidding opportunities because they can’t make the sums work


We are, therefore, in that key period between opportunity and threat.

Members with the right expertise are in high demand, but they can’t afford to take on work at any price – and cash flow is king, which keeps late payment at the top of the agenda.

This is a time when an industry looks to its leaders for guidance and judgement; and when a trade association can earn its corn.
The Chancellor’s autumn spending review included a commitment to the proposed Apprenticeship Levy that could raise £12bn from the largest employers over the next five years to pay for the three million strong ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeships.

The Association sees this as a crucial opportunity to start tackling our skills crisis. We are not simply looking at attracting new people to our industry, but also at offering many already working in the sector the opportunity to ‘upskill’ via an apprenticeship or other suitable training route. This is vital to ensure companies have access to the right skills in order to deliver the world beating standard of buildings now expected of us.


The Association is working with its members to develop five brand new apprenticeships specific to our sector; we are lobbying hard for our sector to get its fair share of the available funding and pushing reform of the further education sector; while also making sure our own house is in order by ensuring companies in our sector take their share of the responsibility for

This is just one example of how the Association can take the initiative and provide leadership. We will work with members and for members to shape a more prosperous building engineering sector.

We have also refreshed our ‘key issues’ strategy and, rather than spreading our resources far and wide, will focus on three or four absolutely essential industry topics every year.

In 2016, our main efforts will be on the skills agenda (as covered above); the development and implementation of digital business platforms – including online payment systems to speed up cash flow, but also methods  for improving efficiencies in all areas of business; Indoor Air Quality; and a radical new approach to the Building Regulations – particularly Part L.

Our progress on all these fronts will be closely monitored and members will be regularly updated via the Association’s revamped website; our online and print communications; and our regular articles in the trade press.

Our over-riding strategic aim is to re-occupy the high ground for technical matters across the sector and provide the leadership the industry expects from this organisation. Therefore, the recent appointment of Tim Rook as our new technical director is pivotal.


There will be some significant changes to your Association, but fundamentally we are still following the same path of our founders in 1904. We are taking some much needed steps to get back to the position of authority and respect we had as the HVCA – some of which has been eroded since we became B&ES.

The rebranding of the Association [as the BESA] is a catalyst for re-stating our message, which is that our members are at the heart of building engineering services and those services are at the core of their customers’ world and the wider economy.

When I presented the new vision and mission statements to the BESA Council in December, I was delighted to receive such an overwhelmingly positive response to my plans. They have given their support to the mission, vision and strategy that my team has developed, which can be encapsulated in these simple statements:

The BESA puts members at the heart of Building Engineering Services

Building a sustainable future
Engineering excellence
Services to inspire
Association of excellence

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