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Presidential view Forward thinking

ECA president Diane Johnson looks at getting the right message across to the media, government – and ECA members


he conference season is well and truly underway, and I have had the privilege of meeting many members during the last few months, listening to their views and also updating them on previous

and present issues. It has been a pleasure to see the supply chain working

and mixing together. Michael Simms President of the ACI has attended nearly all of the conferences, informing members of the dangers of buying and installing counterfeit cables – a very grave matter, which requires constant vigilance. As usual, many of the manufacturers and wholesalers

have not only helped to sponsor these events, but have attended as well, and I wish to acknowledge their commitment to the ECA and its members.

On message As many of you are aware, the skills issue is very close to my heart. With the urgent need to address the training situation going forward, the dearth of positions for graduates, and the uncertainty regarding future tuition fees, I have been able to attract a lot of media coverage to highlight what we at the ECA are calling for to address these key issues. The press are only interested in interviewing people

if they think they have something to say, and our public relations department at the ECA has been extremely effective at getting our message across in a series of press statements. These gained a number of opportunities for me,

including interviews and appearances on the Radio 4 Today programme, BBC News 24 live, and 14 back-to- back live BBC regional programmes. The knock on effect was coverage in all the broadsheets,

tabloids, and local press. Together with other initiatives, we have received coverage valued at more than £900,000 – a great success in getting the ECA name out in the public domain.

Next step The next item on my agenda must be reinforcing our message to government for the need for secure

About the author

Diane Johnson Diane Johnson is president of the ECA, and is a director of family fi rm Eric Johnson of Northwich.

methods of payment for SMEs. We have seen some major casualties recently, and they will not be the last. This issue has badly affected some members. SMEs, as sub-contractors, are currently asked to fi ll in numerous pre-qualifi cation documents – and in most cases pay for the privilege – in order to secure good working practices for the main contractor. But this certainly does not work in reverse. If, as this government states, it is the SMEs that are the backbone of the economy, and will also be responsible for the recovery, then they have to look at how we can achieve a more sustained, secure and effective payment method. The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group continues

to work tirelessly on our behalf, but we must all help them, by talking to our local MPs to highlight this very serious issue. I personally will assist wherever possible.

Whatever the problem, dilemma, or opportunity, if you need assistance, then utilise the services you have available at the ECA

Looking ahead It looks like 2011 is going to be tough, but as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going – and that is what we all must do. It is not all doom and gloom. There

are numerous opportunities, for example, infrastructure (Crossrail, refurbishment of

many railway stations), the London Underground tunnels upgrade, and the refi t of the existing housing stock to meet the government’s carbon reduction programme. My message for 2011 is, whatever the problem,

dilemma, or opportunity, if you need assistance, then utilise the services you have available at the ECA. We have experts on hand to help on all matters – technical, commercial, industrial relations, training, even debt recovery – and they are only a phone call away. Recently, I have talked to many members who now

realise the ECA’s value and strengths, and I encourage you all to take advantage of what the ECA has to offer. Let us not dread 2011 but view it as a challenge – a challenge that will be diffi cult, but not impossible. I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the

support you have afforded me over the last six months, and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and, hopefully, a prosperous New Year.

Winter 2010 ECA Today 15

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