The future remains an uncertain place with the pound, at the time of writing, reaching a 31-year low. Who knows where it will be when you read this. The stock market, however, is nearing record highs, breaking through the 7,000 barrier last month. This is bound to continue. And we could be looking at President Trump, so that might make Brexit Britain look a whole lot more attractive for foreign investors.
While this uncertainty continues to be the only certainty, the rest of us have to get on with it. The underlying issues impacting our sector will be the same in a year’s time or worse unless we start to tackle them. So, the FIS board has approved a bold investment plan aimed at addressing the skills problem and the introduction of a series of new member benefits designed to make members’ lives easier and give them more time to run their businesses.
For training, FIS recently launched CourseSight to enable training providers to display their courses. This allows online payment and an automatic update of the CSCS card on completion of the course. The new FIS training team will be in place shortly to help members develop training plans and access grants as quickly and easily as possible. The ambition is to reduce the admin burden on businesses, make employing apprentices easier and make on-site assessments more readily available. Our aim is to have the whole sector qualified to NVQ Level 2 by 2020.
The first element of our new member benefits package was launched at the FIS Conference on 13 October: a new legal service in partnership with Bond Dickinson. Members will have access to free advice from Kara Price, a lawyer within its specialist construction team. What sets this apart from other legal helplines is that unlike other helplines which purely provide telephone advice, members can forward documents for review. The service is designed to give members access to expert written advice which will allow them to make the informed decisions they need to make about their business.
FIS will be rolling out a series of new member benefits throughout what remains of this year and 2017, all designed to support business activities and demonstrate the real value of membership. We launched the new Scottish Awards in 2016 and they proved a great success with a sell-out event highlighting the great work our members in Scotland deliver. It was particularly heartening to see so many clients come along and share in the celebrations. Congratulations to all the winners.
As I said, we live in ‘interesting times’ with the political landscape seemingly in the midst of a tectonic shift with the old certainties around the political parties changing. We have a new prime minister and government, signalling a complete shift in the style and tone of leadership. Uncertainty will be our constant throughout the coming years and that is not good for the economy. Or that is what the perceived wisdom tells us. Yet the economy in the UK continues to grow and, for the time being, our order books are full.
In other words, keep calm and carry on.
FIS chief executive