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Executive opinion My own contacts with senior politicians are only the tip

of the iceberg. ECA’s senior managers are now welcome Whitehall ‘regulars’ at BIS, DCLG and the Treasury particularly; and the SEC Group extends our lobby, especially on commercial matters, coordinating with the mechanical, steelwork, lift and plumbing industries and our electrical colleagues in Scotland. Our media presence has grown immeasurably – note,

for example, President Di’s powerful performance on the Today programme in August – and our providing the guest of the day on BBC’s Working Lunch earlier in the year.

Labour and licensing What about our employers’ organisation role? The Joint Industry Board (JIB) was established 42 years ago as a joint initiative by a specialist trade association and a specialist trades union. Successive union mergers have, however, changed the dynamic; and the ECA is broadening its scope, too. Changing industry practices mean that direct employment

is now far from universal; and the compulsory linkage of JIB and ECA membership has long been dissolved. There is no doubt that a core of direct

employment remains key to training and quality in the industry – but we need to keep modernising our approach and to keep it under continuous review. The JIB’s successful ECS card, now

distributed to more than 100,000 employees, provides key credentials in our sector and has the potential further to affirm the importance of the ECA and the JIB. I would like to see a Licence to Practise in

the electrical industry – a better legal definition of what constitutes an electrician. That is about standards, regardless of how they are demonstrated – but the ECS card would be a convenient and effective way of documenting them.

Skills and relations

That takes me to the key skills issues: n What will constitute a competent electrician, taking into account new technologies and working methods?

n How can we attract enough competent people, as apprentices or mature trainees? and

n How can we ensure that big users of labour provide proportionate opportunities for training? These remain challenges for the association, and the ECA

needs to continue to work closely with our SummitSkills partners. Relationships with clients and colleagues in the supply

chain have improved hugely since 1997. We should celebrate our Client Associates and Partners in Excellence schemes; and the Electrical Industry Forum, embracing manufacturers, distributors and our colleagues from SELECT in Scotland, not only contributes to the industry’s most impressive and influential conference but also encourages joined-up lobbying by all the members of the electrical industry.

14 ECA Today Autumn 2010

Passing the baton: ECA group chief executive officer David Pollock (left) with his successor Steve Bratt (right)

This complements the ECA’s own influencing programme

and the cross-building-services political influencing carried out by the excellent SEC Group.

Looking ahead What are the themes for the future? By common consent, the greatest challenge is ensuring that we play our full role in the sustainability programme. Senior politicians have said they believe that the ECA

membership can provide the front-line troops to communicate and achieve the national sustainability objectives, especially in the existing built environment. Encouraging this perception is not enough. The ECA must also ensure that electrical contractors are up to the mark in the required technologies and have the confidence to provide information and advice as well as installation services. The association needs to move fast in this – or others will steal ECA members’ lunch. In the longer term, it is still a challenge to find the best way

of serving the growing M&E sector. The ECA Council decided, at the end of 2009, that a model for a single organisation created from the ECA and HVCA was not suitable for further consultation with the membership. I respect Council’s judgement on this. However, the need for coherence – and the expectations of our audiences in Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels and elsewhere – are so strong that I predict, and hope, that closer and more confederate arrangements between the ECA and HVCA will, before long, achieve coherent trade association services for the whole building services industry. Flexibility and vision are required; the industry must not be held back by vested interests.

To the future I am delighted that I am going to continue to represent the ECA in Europe and generally in our lobbying programme. I sense that the European Commission and Parliament will become even more important to the ECA and to UK business generally in coming years, and that it is timely to sharpen up our engagement there. I am confident that all will recognise the value of the

ECA’s qualities: professionalism; excellence; efficiency; a commitment to realistic and constructive relations between employers and employees; a record of excellent member services, continually updated; and good fellowship and mutual support between members. From 1 October, Steve Bratt’s hand will be on the ECA tiller.

I’m delighted he will be taking over from me. I encouraged him to join the association three years ago – to bring skills I believe are essential for ECA’s future, and in the hope I would one day be able to congratulate him on this appointment. Trade associations in future will need skilled managers,

trained in a rigorous commercial environment but tempered with understanding of membership organisations. Steve has these qualities. I wish him and all of my colleagues and friends the greatest success.

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