Companies must give their young engineers space and time to think, innovate and share their ideas in order to help the industry solve its productivity problems, according to the president of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

Tim Hopkinson told the Association’s annual President’s Lunch that young engineers must be allowed to “set the agenda”, improve collaboration and spearhead the sector’s attempts to embrace digital technologies, guided by the experience that already exists within the industry. Launching the BESA Future Leaders programme during the event at the Leadenhall Building in the City of London, he said the new generation of engineers in a world of social media was “more naturally collaborative” and that this would be crucial if the sector was to improve its performance.

Mr Hopkinson stated: “Many potential investors see construction projects as risky because we frequently struggle to deliver on time and on budget.”

“Construction projects combine many trades and many companies so when we fail to work properly in teams, it leads to delays and quality issues. This in turn drives up costs and, as a result, it takes longer for clients to recoup their investment.” He added that the tender process was often driven by “the price of winning work and not by the cost of delivering it”.

Mr Hopkinson, who is managing director of the ductwork fabricator and installer E Poppleton & Son, said the industry had the digital technologies to improve its processes and had demonstrated its ability to deliver “magnificent projects” when it collaborated properly. However, he believes it needs “new ideas, fresh thinking and an approach that is suited to today’s 21st century world”. Encouraging young people to contribute to the industry via the BESA Future Leaders initiative is part of the president’s ambition to improve the flow of young talent into the sector.

During his lunch speech, he urged the building engineering sector to champion its role models and boast

about its achievements in order to improve its image and attract its fair share of the “best and brightest”. The President’s Lunch event also included the presentation of the London and South Apprentice of the Year Awards, with Curtis Castledine of Briggs & Forrester named as the overall winner. Connor Bruce of Farmwood M&E Services won the Electrical Apprentice award, while Harry Green of Priddy Engineering picked up the Building Services Engineer prize.

Meanwhile, the award for Staff Driven Improvement Initiative went to Vent-Tech.

Each of the London and South apprentice award winners were automatically short-listed for the inaugural BESA National Awards. In seperate news, BESA has reorganised its management and staff in order to focus resources on increasing value to members. The organisation has reduced staffing levels in certain areas and consolidated member services, in order to improve the efficiency of its operations. These changes follow an extensive review period dating

back two years to the appointment of current chief executive Paul McLaughlin, and reflect a desire to accelerate the recruitment of new members and continue growing its training provision.

Mr McLaughlin explained: “In an ever-changing trading environment, it is important that we continually review our strategy. A strategic review of activities has been undertaken to ensure that the Association is focussed on providing the products and services that most add value to members, and that these are delivered in the most efficient way possible.” The Association has responded to extensive member feedback calling for particular focus on training; legal and commercial support. The decision was also taken to increase the amount of technical information generated from the considerable reserves of knowledge that already exist within member companies, reducing the need for a large internal technical team. The revised strategy and structure reflects the Association’s renewed focus on the areas of highest priority for members.

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