2014 really does promise to be a busy year, which will come as no surprise, and of course after the recent austere times this can only be good news. So how are you going to gain maximum benefit from the better conditions, and crucially for us, how can FPDC members get the best from their Federation? What can we do to support you through what we hope will be a far more positive and prosperous time ahead?

As members will be aware the process towards a potential merger with AIS is well under way and it looks likely (subject to members voting, coming soon) that by the late spring / summer of this year the new combined organisation will be taking over the representation of members’ interests. Regardless of the name, members need to get full value from the body of which they are a part, so how are YOU going to use your trade association this year?

There is one thing of which there can be no doubt:, to get the most out of it you need to engage. We need to hear your views, your expectations, in order to best represent you when various opportunities arise or obstacles appear.

During the course of 2013 we made great strides in making training available for more operatives through such routes as the soon-to-be-available Specialist Upskilling Programs in both drylining and Light Gauge Steel Framing. These programs will provide a route for all operatives, including Labour-Only-Sub-Contractors, to gain an NVQ Level 2 and recognise their capabilities, with grant aid available from CITB. This, in addition to the routes already open to members, means that we can work towards our goal of a fully qualified workforce which can only strengthen our hand when we present ourselves as a skilled craft group to the industry at large.

We have also been instrumental in introducing to members the availability of Shared Apprenticeship Schemes, making it possible to include new entrant trainees on your projects without having to undergo the complexities of employing them directly. Through this we are promoting the sector as a viable one for new entrants and giving young people a route into a career in our chosen discipline.

We continue to develop and offer management training courses for those in, or working towards, senior roles in their organisations. These cover a variety of subjects including handling contracts, getting paid, understanding technical and design issues, sustainability, and more.

If the merger completes then the new organisation will be able to further develop the AIS ‘Build a better contractor’ scheme which also provides training, help and best practice advice for those trying to run a business in our sector. This, in conjunction with the FPDC initiatives above, will mean there will be a powerful and comprehensive offering for members to use in training and developing their staff and improving their businesses.

We have started work on revising the British Standard Code of Practice for Drylining & Partitioning, which is arguably the single most crucial piece of work to take place in the last three decades, affecting as it does every single member in their day-to-day work. Members have been invited to be a part of this process, some have taken up this offer and the opportunity remains open.

For the specialist groups, such as screeders, fibrous plasterers and those involved in Heritage work, it is important to make sure your interests are best represented through dedicated groups working on subjects that matter most for you.

During 2014 we are in a position to have a strong lobby with key MPs and civil servants, discussing matters of fair treatment by clients, regulatory changes and revisions to critical documents such as Building Regulations.

We will also be engaging principal contractors and clients, more and more, and getting them to understand the work of our Federation, for the benefit of our members.

Members’ meetings, training events and seminars continue to be offered and increasingly these can be accessed on-line to make them easier for more members to participate in.

In short, there is an awful lot going on, and more than is contained in these few paragraphs. YOU can be a part of these vital initiatives, have your say and make sure your trade association hears what you have to say and relays it to the wider audience.

If we wish to continue to raise the profile of our craft it is imperative that we are seen to be active in areas such as these, and to do this to the best effect we need the involvement of the members.

Pick up the phone, email us, come to the office in person – it doesn’t matter how you get in touch, but make sure you’re on board and a part of the driving force as we aim to capitalise on the upturn in market conditions and make 2014 a year to remember for all the RIGHT reasons!