The challenge ahead

In his first blog as BCIA President, Graeme Rees takes a look at some of the issues he is keen to address during his tenure.

I know it has become a bit of a cliché to claim there is never a quiet time to take over as an industry President, whatever the sector, but I think it’s fair to say that nobody could have predicted the two years Terry Sharp had ahead of him from almost the very moment he took on this role in March 2020. I would like to thank him for helping to ensure the industry stepped up in response to what was and still remains an uncertain time. The roll out of the BEMS Controls Engineer Apprenticeship during his term will also help secure a key starting point for anybody looking to carve out a career in what can be a hugely rewarding industry. Looking ahead, I wish to build on Terry’s good work by tackling a number of issues and themes in order to keep the BCIA moving in the right direction.

The skills shortage is one problem that can’t be ignored as in an ever-changing world it’s imperative that we continue to facilitate a steady flow of skilled individuals into the BEMS industry. We will all have slightly different stories of how we ended up on our chosen career path but now that we’re there it falls on us to communicate the industry’s appeal towards those on the outside looking in.

With the aforementioned apprenticeships, the nurturing of fresh talent is something we must continue to push and I would encourage our members to explore the multiple benefits of taking on an apprentice where feasible. This also ties into the ongoing challenge of improving the gender balance and looking at what we can do to attract more female engineers and employees. We have had one or two females enrol on the apprenticeships, but the industry is still very male-dominated. Changing this is not something that can be forced, but I do believe it can be gently encouraged by better engagement and dialogue with both school leavers and potential employers.


Opportunity and evolution

With sustainability policies and the UK’s mission to meet its Net Zero target by 2050 businesses are under increasing pressure to ensure their buildings are performing at their optimum level with minimum energy wastage. With the level of technology on offer and going into our buildings it is no real surprise to see the role of the Master Systems Integrators (MSI) becoming more prominent, looking at the interconnection of the multitude of systems, and ensuring they work in harmony to deliver the complete solution the client desires. MSIs have become essential partners for many building owners and developers as there are clearly multiple benefits to be had through their engagement. Their increasing popularity will no doubt pose challenges to the more traditional building controls providers, but often with challenges also come opportunities that help drive the evolution of our industry.

It is worth re-emphasising at this point that the BCIA is run by its members for its members, and ongoing, regular engagement with them is the only way in which we can achieve real progress and accomplish our goals. Our Marketing, Technical and Skills Working Groups are where a lot of important discussions take place and what starts off as a small idea contributed at our meetings can grow into an industry-changing initiative. The Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme launched last year already seeing almost 60 apprentices in training is a perfect example of the hard work and dedication of some members that now benefits all.

This year the BCIA is expanding upon its hugely successful and ever popular annual BCIA Awards evening by inviting all members and their guests to attend the first ever BCIA Annual Conference entitled; Building Controls – Addressing the needs of a changing industry. The agenda includes prominent guest speakers and workshop sessions covering a wide range of developments and policies which impact the building controls sector, and I encourage all those with connections to our industry to attend.

Last year we highlighted on a number of occasions how much progress the BCIA had made in its first 30 years as an industry association. I hope that whoever is in my position in 30 years’ time is able to say something similar looking back over 60 years!