Our lack of unity is hurting our industry

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

As chair of Certass, I make a plea to the other bodies in our industry to unite for the betterment of our sector as the pressures on the glazing industry will only increase over the next 12 months.

Certass is representing in areas of government activity where our competitors are absent. Yet, rather than working with us, they would rather spend time writing letters to government and media complaining about our advice to our members even though it is proving to be correct.

There is a lot of noise in our sector concerning what associations are up to, and how they are helping members and creating influence. Yet just pushing stories into the market is not going to help the industry we love, but rather create miss-placed reliance on words that have been manufactured in marketing departments rather through actual activity.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is launching a recovery plan for UK construction, to be delivered over two years, which will focus on the various sectors that impact our market. The CLC has established four sectoral working groups for infrastructure, housing, RMI and social infrastructure and construction.

Yet, the communication with our industry into these groups beyond myself is not happening. This comes from our history of shunning collaboration with other sectors and campaigns, so that we have alienated ourselves to a position of little influence and a lack of invites.

Certass has had considerable success during Covid-19 liaising with government on a number of different issues, and although you can never be certain of the impact of your efforts as an association, through lobbying and providing supporting evidence, the timing of results is in-line with our campaigns.

Issues include: increased support for SMEs through changing various funds and access to local finances; campaigns for promotion to consumers; risk-based assessments so that only those who fall foul gain higher inspection levels; and working on re-energising our ability to work.

These have seen us in consistent communication with three government departments, two devolved administrations, and speaking directly to numerous civil servants and MPs on what impacts our local glazing installers.

Our ability to influence has seen Certass, at time of writing this, as one of only five construction trade bodies listed on the government website for coronavirus support from business representative organisations and trade associations. And the only one from the glazing sector.

Certass is supporting the new TrustMark Work Safe Campaign, open to all and aimed at improving consumer confidence in tradespeople. This is a time to unite with TrustMark as the only government-endorsed consumer protection organisation, yet some have decided to work against such bodies with many large glazing businesses being withdrawn, without their knowledge, from the scheme.

Competent person schemes have been informed of a 12-month programme to modernise the minimum technical competency requirements for installers, of which glazing is one of 10 working groups. This will give installers clarity on how they will be deemed competent in the future and what pathways are open to them. Hopefully the other glazing competency schemes will get involved in ensuring a good position for our industry in what will be judged by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee and government.

Certass will be defending against calls, from qualification authority funded businesses, for qualification requirements throughout glazing. While we do agree with continual learning we do want this to be provided through government-funded programmes and do not believe in the success of competency through NVQs nor CSCS cards as proof.

CSCS cards have their place in construction as evidence for access to site and a record in time of achievement, but the digital cards need to be introduced and CSCS needs to be combined with other competency proof provided by bodies such as Certass to be effective.

The pleasing thing for local tradespeople is that Certass is representing them in numerous forums, and our success during Covid-19 has proven our ability to improve the position of the local tradespeople gaining a seat at the table in many important conversations. The larger installing businesses and fabricators can join us through collaboration, if we as an industry unite around common causes, we will have an even stronger voice.