My two years as chair of the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) is almost up and it genuinely is time that has flown by. While I am sad to be letting the reins go, I am also full of optimism for the future of the Federation and for wider construction generally.
When I took up the role as chair, I was determined to put training and education high on the agenda, as I recognise its importance to not only improving the quality and safety of work being undertaken but also to the empowerment of those employed.
With this as a backdrop, I am pleased as chair to have overseen the development (and soon the implementation) of our FPS ‘Trailblazer' apprenticeship, aimed at ensuring members can continue to grow and develop their skilled employee base, while making use of the government's apprenticeship levy funding system that is now in place.
The FPS works tirelessly to encourage more people into the geotechnical sector and is doing as much as it can to prevent the skills shortage escalating further and even reversing the trend.
We have also established a working group to develop a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Geotechnical Installation, which will allow a key group of skilled workers to achieve qualifications and will be well received by the wider industry.
These initiatives, small as they might appear, continue our progress in the right direction and hopefully will have an increasing impact over the coming years.
Brexit has been something of a stalker for the construction sector: many talk of the potential pitfalls, while some talk of it as the sector's saviour.
Personal opinions aside, like so many things in life, until it happens all that can be agreed on is its accompanying uncertainty.
However, as an association, one highlight of my tenure was being able to represent the FPS in giving evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment Report, which examines the impact of Brexit on the future skills needed in the construction industry, recommending measures that need to be put in place to address them.
I think it is excellent to see the government taking the issues of present and future skills shortages seriously, as they will impact directly on our sector and indirectly on the many future infrastructure projects planned.
The voice of the FPS and what it represents was fundamental to us having input on this inquiry and reflects its influence on the wider construction and political stage.
The Federation's core remit of promoting safety and good operating practice, with the issuing of many guidance documents and safety alerts, has continued during my tenure as chair, but we have also looked to the health and wellbeing of employees too.
The FPS executive team is presently working with other organisations on ways of improving the well-being of workers in the piling industry, with consideration being given to the status of industry working hours, notice periods and sick pay beyond statutory and health insurance.
Early days, but I am sure the work already well underway on these issues will continue and we will see some beneficial change as a result.
Like any trade body, the FPS cannot stand still, and I am pleased that as chair I have been able to see the refreshed look and feel of the organisation, with it engaging far more with its members and via the media and the wider construction community.
To truly represent the piling sector, the FPS must continue to be vocal, especially on issues such as skills shortages, retentions and fair payment, to name a few, and I am sure this will continue.
The next chair of the FPS is long-time member Philip Hines, who I know shares many of the aims and ideals for the FPS as my own, and I wish him every success as he takes on the role. I am confident that the FPS will continue to be one of the leading specialist contractor organisations packing a punch well above its industry weight.
Alasdair Henderson is the outgoing chair of the UK's Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS)