FPDC has always been about helping members to be more successful and as we gaze into the future and begin to consider the intended benefits of FPDC’s merger with the Association of Interior Specialists (AIS), we can see a potentially bright future on the horizon.

The new FPDC-AIS combined organisation will provide us with renewed strength and vigour and will be able to build on the best attributes of each of the previous bodies.

Our voice in the industry will be all the stronger for the alliance, whether it be lobbying government for changes in regulations and legislation, or making sure our members’ interests are best served by CITB and through our levy payments. It may be that you are in one of the ‘special interest’ groups such as heritage plastering or operable walls, for whom dedicated groups will be set up to ensure the particular needs of those involved in these areas are fully addressed. Perhaps it will be by virtue of the focus on training, both at operative level and through the various layers of management and administration.

The same support that exists now will continue to be available for your businesses in the form of HR advice, legal advice and health and safety guidance, with every service strengthened and enhanced by the joining of resources. Our publications and website will be reviewed and refreshed, and through these means and the ever-burgeoning phenomenon of social media we will be able to inform members of matters that concern them as they happen.

On-line resources such as training, contract leads and PR will continue to be made available and regular members’ meetings will enable all members to keep themselves well informed as to the issues that matter most. Recent examples include payment problems, tax changes, updates to Building Regulations and advice on the implementation of BIM.

This exciting new era comes to pass just as our economy begins to show real signs of choking back into life, and we eagerly anticipate the upturn in the market that we can all see looming.

All of this may sound like a Utopian dream, or perhaps just like an advertising pitch, but the existence of these opportunities is a matter of fact. The main thing therefore preventing members of our new combined trade body from gaining maximum benefit from all of this is – well, YOU!

The systems will be in place, the facilities made available and the opportunities presented, but all that will mean nothing without the meaningful and enthusiastic participation of the members of the new organisation. Any membership organisation is only as strong as its membership and this new body will be no different. There is a will and an intention to work hard on your behalf, and there is much talent and experience waiting to serve your needs, but ultimately it is YOUR suggestions for topics to tackle, YOUR attendance at meetings and training events, and YOUR feedback concerning the things we do, that will set us apart in the future. If you want a thriving trade association we can make sure you have one, but it feeds from the fuel supplied by you, its members.

Dare to do things differently, for it is only through this that real progress is made. Make a commitment; the dividends it pays will outweigh the effort it took to start the ball rolling. Challenge us, use us, inform us, and we will bear the flag in your name.

One observation I have made over a period of years in this industry is that we have a tendency to ‘talk the talk’ and not necessarily ‘walk the walk’. We talk of change, we dream of innovation, but often we are found wanting when the chips are down and a commitment is needed to make things happen.

There’s still a tendency towards the thought of the ‘cowboy builder’, for instance; our image is not what we would like it to be among the public at large. We don’t yet have a fully qualified workforce or a clear and well-communicated career path to attract potential new entrants. Clients still view what we do with a certain air of nonchalance and expect everything to be done at the lowest possible price, forgetting that they also need quality and that this is being stifled by procurement methods that penalise or obstruct the application of craft skills and genuine innovation.

Help us to make our sector different and distinct; to rise above the legions of others and to effect real change for you, our members. It is your membership fee, it is your organisation, and it is you that will be the catalyst for the best we can offer, but only with your support.

There is much to be gained from joining together these two august organisations, and there is much to be gleaned from being a member. With summer around the corner and the economy starting to blossom along with the blooms, I urge you not to let this opportunity pass you by.

Get involved, and get the most from your new representative body.