How do we meet the rules for the future?

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

The Covid-19 virus may have limited face-to-face meetings, but the wheels of Westminster are still turning and now is the time when discussions can be had and decisions for the future made.

The representation to government of the glazing industry has been relatively ineffective in the last 20 years, with agendas that should be based on indisputable facts appearing often to be completely partisan. Too often the views of the few have been promoted as the collective position of the masses, leading to our industry being often ignored by those who can effect change.

We know that in the near future, the construction worker will be deemed to require greater proof of their competence, and we know that qualifications are only one part of this future puzzle. Trade associations that will not change are fast becoming a thing of the past, as a decrease in membership volume is proving.

Our sector must modernise rapidly, taking the lead from other areas such as electrics and gas that are at least three to five years ahead. We need to be collectively helping and coalescing around the common causes, but we are still only comfortable in groups of people with similar views. It is noticeable in any publicised industry forum how similar those in the room are, which is why we are getting so little that is new.

The relationship between trade associations and competency schemes is under the spotlight as unhealthy influence has caused double standards for the benefit of larger businesses. This needs to stop, as larger firms are mentioned far too often by consumer protection bodies as a source of stress for the consumer.

SMEs consequently bear the brunt of stricter monitoring and assessment practices which should be based on the risk they present, as opposed to an inspection rate not founded in regulation, that is being applied to all but the very largest.

As the documents on which competency is based are rewritten, and the regulation affecting our products and how we install is tightened, we are seemingly ineffectual in representing ourselves. This is why so often the regulation announcements seem to go against the interests of our sector.

Media campaigns to consumers by membership bodies will not help our position, just as they do not sell windows. If associations have spare money built from membership-related income, then now is the time to be reinvesting in the market to ensure the continuation of businesses, just as CITB reinvests its levy money into actual training.

Now is the time to get serious. Industry in the UK is faced with a very tough year ahead and markets such as glazing could be hit fast and hard. Those wanting to be seen as serious players in the association, membership and committee space, need to do a lot more than they have done to date.