Same Old Chestnut!

BVAA recently organised a dinner at the Houses of Parliament, with the express intent of getting a serious conversation going on the British Valve industry.

Hosted by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the invitees included a sprinkling of BVAA chairmen of the past and present, some key players from the membership – intentionally including some we don’t see so often – some overseas trade representatives and several non-members, just to give some added spice.

As it happened, our dinner in the Lords turned out to be the same night that the Commons decided - by just one vote - to force the Prime Minister to delay the Brexit process to avoid a no-deal scenario.

While it was calmness and serenity at our end of the House, we observed from the lobby absolute mayhem and carnage at the other!

Never was there a better time therefore, to be at the heart of power in this country and to discuss some serious matters affecting our industry.

We set it up with a very serious question about the need for trade associations, and I dutifully prepared 14 pages of hand-written notes on BVAA’s services, our threats and challenges, informative stats and of course researched the dreaded ‘B’ word – Brexit! – including the very specific challenge we highlighted to our members about the PED and 3.1 material certification should there be a ‘no deal’ outcome (see ‘HotSpots’).

In this crucible of potential topics, I was extremely surprised, indeed eventually delighted, that the main topic of conversation forged was again around that old chestnut that inevitably raises its head in any prolonged discussion on the valve industry – that of the capability and availability of skilled people.

It has many facets: the apprenticeship levy, funding, general education, availability (or not) of the right courses, the right people… the ‘right stuff.’

Overall however, it still remains one of the biggest challenges to us as an industry.

And something the BVAA Chairman and I discussed again over our post-prandial snifter and agreed we must raise up our association’s Agenda.

We started the industrial revolution in this country, and had an apprenticeship system that was the envy of the world, churning out highly skilled engineers, generation after generation.

The old lab where I did my first year of apprenticeship, in a town 10 miles off, is now a ‘dance studio’. The next nearest college running an engineering course is miles away!

A budding ‘engineer of the future’ where I live in rural Oxfordshire would somehow have to get themselves 20~30 miles - via their own transport as we have no trains and very few buses - to college, if indeed he/she could find one running a suitable course.

This is madness. To secure our future we really MUST grow our own and have the wherewithal, infrastructure and funding to do so.

BVAA addressed the development of own Future Leaders, it looks increasingly likely that we will have to lobby strongly to get our own seed corn too.

Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 49

Winter 2019 // Issue 51
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