Scottish Government urged to appoint construction regulator to protect SMEs on late payment

SELECT MD Darrell Matthews

Scotland’s electrotechnical trade campaigning body has called on the Scottish Government to learn from the collapse of Carillion by appointing a Chief Construction Advisor (CCA) to regulate aspects of the construction industry, most urgently on the issue of late payment.

While acknowledging that Holyrood has already made some progress on public sector procurement issues, SELECT, whose member companies account for over 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland, argues that yet more needs to be done.

Darrell Matthews, MD of SELECT, said: “The collapse of Carillion sent shockwaves through the UK construction sector. Whilst Scotland was perhaps in a better position than the rest of the UK, we believe that the Scottish Government should treat this as a wake-up call and put protections in place.

“Our members believe that the appointment of a CCA, acting as a ‘construction tsar’, to enforce already existing legal protections by ensuring repeated late payers are identified, monitored and if necessary, punished, would be a clear signal of intent by the Scottish Government.”

The appointment of a regulator was recommended in the 2013 Review of Scottish Public Sector Procurement in Construction review, and SELECT’s calls have been echoed by a number of MSPs, including Labour’s Monica Lennon.

“There needs to be full recognition that the construction sector is a key driver of Scottish growth and that given the sheer volume of public sector construction contracts, the Scottish Government needs to be certain that public money is going to responsible, well-managed SMEs,” said Mr Matthews.

Recent campaigning has seen SELECT’s head of membership and communication, Alan Wilson, address Holyrood’s Cross Party Group for Construction, on a number of measures, including the payment, packaging of contracts and retentions.

SELECT marks another successful year at AGM

(from left) New SELECT MD Darrell Matthews, president Kevin Griffin, vice president Kenny Duncan and immediate past president Eric Rae

Scotland’s electrotechnical campaigning trade body SELECT has recorded another year of successful awareness raising, outreach and training initiatives at its AGM.

Kevin Griffin was re-elected as president of SELECT and Kenny Duncan was re-elected as vice president at the meeting and technical update, which was held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh in Inverkeithing.

The AGM also welcomed Darrell Matthews as the organisation’s new managing director and wished outgoing MD Newell McGuiness, who has served for 29 years, every happiness in his retirement.

Mr Griffin pointed out that the technical hot topic over the course of the year had been work on the 18th edition of BS 7671 on which many hundreds of hours have been spent to ensure amendments would be practical and would meet international standards.

He said: “For the third successive year, SELECT delivered awareness training to all local authority verifiers.  This year we travelled to eight locations around Scotland delivering updates on BS 7671 and BS 5839.

“These events are an important part of maintaining our relationship with local authority building standards staff, which helps us represent members’ interests around the Certification of Construction Scheme.”

SELECT’s Toolbox Talks also had a strong year. In 2017, 12 events had a record number of attendees with more than 650 members coming to hear about updates to the Scottish Building Standards and Surge Protective devices, a presentation which now features on YouTube.

Training played another important role with a 5% increase in demand for SELECT training courses. Over the year SELECT trained 2871 delegates across 267 different courses. 2044 delegates were from member businesses and the rest from non-member organisations.

Dave Forrester, SELECT’s head of technical services, who presented on the major changes, said: “It has been another eventful, but very satisfying, year with demand on the increase yet again.”

SELECT’s 1250 member companies account for around 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland. They have a collective turnover of around £1 billion and provide employment for 15,000 people.

Darrell Matthews replaces Newell McGuiness as SELECT MD

SELECT MD Darrell Matthews

Representative organisations’ specialist Darrell Matthews has been appointed by SELECT, as its new managing director, replacing Newell McGuiness at the campaigning trade body.

Darrell, who has been working in tandem with Newell during a handover period, has a wide range of commercial experience, most recently with industry bodies such as EEF, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institute of Directors.

He joins SELECT, which represents member companies that collectively employ in excess of 15,000 people, at a time of sustained campaigning activity. Key issues for the sector are protection of title, apprenticeships and ensuring members get paid on time.

He said: “I feel very lucky to be able to join a successful organisation which is growing, and helping its members to grow too. It is a credit to its directors and its members and I want to work closely with them on key decision-making.

“I have enjoyed working for organisations which promote their industry as well as serving members’ interests. It is important to explain, both to the UK and Scottish governments and the public, what the electro-technical sector is trying to achieve. Electricians mostly go through a long, intense apprenticeship to gain their qualifications and it is vital that we ensure the public – and politicians – understand and respect this level of commitment to the trade.”

His priorities with SELECT, he said, will be “to push the Excellence in Skills agenda, to support the campaign currently being addressed in the Scottish Parliament for Protection of Title and to further promote apprenticeships and training”.

Darrell added: “Protection of Title is extremely important on many grounds, but we also want the sector to be inclusive and we will focus on creating as many ‘routes to qualification’ as possible for electricians who do not have a grade card.

“I want to continue SELECT’s excellent offering in areas such as advice lines, which handled 1500 calls last year from electricians in the field who wanted to access the latest technical information and guidance.

“We will continue to work closely with our industry partners, the SJIB, SECTT and Unite the Union to promote apprentices as the future of the industry and to explain to young people how rewarding a career as an electrician can be.”

Thanking outgoing managing director Newell McGuiness for his contribution to SELECT over his 13 years in post, he said: “Newell’s will be difficult boots to fill. I am privileged that he offered me such valuable guidance and helped me get my feet under the desk. He has done a cracking job over many years of promoting the electrotechnical industry in Scotland.”

SELECT calls for more stringent controls on electrical safety in privately rented accommodation

Darrell Matthews

The campaigning body for Scotland’s electrotechnical trade industry has called for more stringent controls over the vital electrical inspection and testing performed by private landlords prior to registration.

Responding to a Scottish Government consultation paper on Landlord Registration, which recently took place by the Scottish Government’s Landlord Registration Team, SELECT said the move is needed to keep private renters safe.

Darrell Matthews, managing director of SELECT, whose member companies account for over 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland, said: “Private landlord registration has been mandatory since 2004 and a robust application process is critical to keep the people of Scotland safe in privately rented accommodation.

“Our members operate to the highest standards of electrical installation and testing and firmly believe that the government should hold private landlords to the same exacting standards.”

One of the key areas in the consultation relates to a proposal to expand the “prescribed information” which landlords have to provide when letting a property. The proposal, as worded in the consultation, is that landlords provide information that “a property meets the specific requirements relating to gas, electrical, and carbon monoxide safety.”

SELECT has responded by stating that landlords should be required to submit written evidence that they have had electrical inspection and testing undertaken and that fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted and operational.

Mr Matthews said: “The current Prescribed Information makes no requirement on the landlord to declare the safety of the property being rented, so any change to this is a welcome improvement.

“We believe that this is an excellent opportunity for the Scottish Government to put the safety of renters foremost, and ensure that properties being rented by private landlords have electrical installations of the highest standard.”

SELECT has over 1250 member companies who collective turnover is around £1 billion and provide employment for 15,000 people.

UK’s biggest union supports call for protection of title for electricians

Pat Rafferty, the Unite Scottish secretary

Representatives of both employers and employees have come together in Scotland to press the case with the Scottish Government for the protection of title for the occupation of electrician.

Unite the Union has written to Keith Brown, the cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, to express its full support for the long-running campaign for recognition by industry bodies, a move which it is estimated could boost the economy by £58 million.

The union supported  the Electricians Working Group which was convened at Holyrood following a concerted awareness-raising push by electrical employers’ association SELECT, the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) and the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust.

Both sides of the industrial divide are asking the Government recognise the skills, knowledge, training, experience and qualifications of electricians and the vital role they play in the functioning of modern society.

They also ask the government to take into consideration the risk to public safety of unqualified or underqualified people being able to pass themselves off as electricians, especially when carrying out work for vulnerable householders.

Pat Rafferty, the Unite Scottish secretary, said: “Our members have expressed their frustration that people in such a safety-critical occupation are able to use the title of electrician when they have not met the established national and industry standards.”

SELECT commissioned a report from 4-Consulting on the economic impact of regulating electricians in Scotland which showed that protecting lives and property in this manner could save the country around £58m a year. It pointed out that 10 people were killed and more than 600 injured in electrical fault-related incidents in 2016 alone.

Newell McGuiness, SELECT managing director, said: “We do not want to leave people behind if they want to operate as competent and safe electricians and we have taken steps to ensure that there are a variety of ‘routes to qualification’ to make the profession as inclusive as possible.

“But we have to act as soon as possible to end the impact of poor and unsafe work and to give consumers confidence that the electricians they commission will be properly qualified.”

Fiona Harper, the secretary of the SJIB, added: “With this whole-hearted support from our industry partners Unite the Union, there is now a discernible groundswell of opinion in favour of regulation and in particular protection of title for electricians.”

SELECT’s 1250 member companies account for around 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland. They have a collective turnover of around £1 billion and provide employment for 15,000 people.

New committee to ensure training excellence remains at forefront of electrical industry

Fiona Harper

Scotland’s campaigning electrical trade association has established a new training regime aimed at enhancing members’ input into training activity and meeting the future skills needs of the industry as a whole.

SELECT’s Training, Skills and Development Committee met for the first time in April with a brief to monitor and review all matters relating to training and development as they affect the association’s members.

It is also engaging positively with third parties such as the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority/Scottish Joint Industry Board (the Joint Awarding Body for the SVQ), training providers and other trade bodies.

Fiona Harper, SELECT’s head of employment affairs and secretary of the new committee, said: “The electrotechnical sector is a complex and fast-moving environment and training is at the heart of everything we do.

“Modern electricians are highly-skilled, professional people and it is essential that they are in the vanguard of changes in the industry and up to speed with new developments which affect the work they do.”

The new committee will maintain an action plan in support of SELECT’s strategic objectives, give strategic direction to BSE Skills and collaborate with the SQA, SDS and the Electrical Contractors’ Association. It will also monitor training content to ensure it is relevant, current and accurate.

New categories introduced as SELECT prepares for 2018 industry awards

SELECT MD Darrell Matthews

The chance of a prestigious prize at the most exciting night of the year for Scotland’s electrical industry has been once again increased with the addition of two new categories to the SELECT Industry Awards for 2018.

The race is now on in the pursuit of excellence as companies and individuals are invited to demonstrate why they are at the top of their profession. The deadline for entries has been revealed as Friday June 29.

As well as the established award categories – which include, Apprentice of the Year and Lifetime Achievement – there will now be an opportunity for businesses of various sizes to enter the awards to win either Best Small, Medium or Large Contractor of the Year.

The Small Contractor category will be open to all SELECT member companies with a turnover of up to £250,000; Medium Contractors – a new award opportunity – will be in the range of £250,000 to £1 million; Large Contractors – also a new award – will be in excess of £1m.

The awards will also be a first for new SELECT managing director Darrell Matthews, who will take over the reins from Newell McGuiness over the course of this year.

He said: “SELECT has a tremendous track record as a campaigning professional body for the electrical sector and the awards will once again highlight the skills, dedication and commitment of the people in our industry. They also come at a time when we are pushing hard for professional recognition for electricians.

“From apprentices to journeymen, from small local businesses to major enterprises, from technically exciting manufacturers to environmentally aware innovators, the awards will showcase all that is best in our safety-critical business.”

SELECT is once again expecting record entrants and attendance this year’s awards ceremony which, as in years past, will be held at the stylish Radisson Blu in Glasgow on Friday, October 12.

There will also be new judges facing the challenge of deciding the winners – former Clydesdale Bank chairman Ken Lewandowski and the editor of CABLEtalk, Ian Mason.

Ken Lewandowski said: “I am delighted to be joining the panel and I am anticipating a difficult task in choosing the winners. There are some great companies in the electrical sector in Scotland and this is a well-deserved chance for them to shine.”

Campaign for recognition of professional electricians raised at Holyrood

Newell McGuiness

A campaign to ensure that every genuine electrician in Scotland is recognised as a regulated professional has been raised in the Scottish Parliament.

In what is being seen as a critical juncture in the campaign, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, formally raised a motion addressing the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

SELECT, the trade body for the electro-technical trade in Scotland, has already been instrumental in establishing a government working group which has been investigating how protection of title can be introduced for electrical professionals, which will help safeguard the public.

The motion, which recognises the training and experience which properly qualified electricians require to hold, is supported by Scottish Conservative MSPs Jackson Carlaw, Annie Wells, Jeremy Balfour, Tom Mason, Peter Chapman, Donald Cameron, Miles Brigg and Liam Kerr, Scottish Labour Party MSPs Jackie Baillie and Neil Findlay as well as the leader of the Lib Dems in Scotland, Willie Rennie, and Lib Dem MSP, Mike Rumbles.

Mr Halcro Johnston said: “Recognition of the vital role that qualified electricians play in safeguarding all parts of Scottish society is long overdue. These are highly-trained, competent and qualified professional people whose contribution to modern life is immense.

“This is also a public safety issue. Protection of title will help to weed out those who, despite being untrained, pose as qualified electricians and it will help ensure the safety of homeowners across the country.”

Newell McGuiness, SELECT managing director, said: “This is a crucial step in our hard-fought campaign for recognition and we are optimistic that the motion will make MSPs aware of the importance of the issue.

“The government’s own statistics have shown that 69% of all accidental fires in Scottish homes are caused by electricity and unqualified workers pose a distinct and continuing threat to safety in Scottish homes.”

Mr Halcro Johnston’s motion asks Holyrood to note the calls supporting the principle of the regulation of electricians and points out that, while more than 100 regulated professions exist in the UK – including gas engineers – there is no protection afforded to electricians.

It asks Parliament to appreciate that improperly-installed electrical work creates a significant risk of fire as well as other harm to householders and that the installation of electrical work by unqualified or only partly qualified individuals carries a safety risk.

It goes on to highlight a SELECT survey which suggested that 93% of householders would expect someone claiming to be an electrician to be properly qualified and that 89% were not aware of how to check qualifications.

Finally, it asks for acknowledgement of calls for the Scottish Government to consider how the Parliament’s powers over protection of title can be utilised to reassure the public of the safety of electrical work in domestic and non-domestic premises.

Q&A with Fiona Harper, SELECT head of employment affairs & secretary of the SJIB

Fiona Harper

Fiona Harper from SELECT, the trade association for electricians in Scotland, on how she faced up to her detractors who believed the construction industry was not the place for a woman.

My first job after university was with a bank in their debt collection department.  It wasn’t for me. After a lot of applications I got a job by chance with Babcock Construction Ltd as an Industrial Relations Officer.

My dad worked for Babcocks and his secretary was typing my CV, when it was left on a photocopier by mistake. It was found and passed to the Personnel Director who happened to be looking for an Industrial Relations Officer for Torness Power Station.

From there I went to Diamond Power Specialty Ltd (a sister company of Babcock International) as their Personnel Manager.

Then to the National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry, initially as a Field Officer, then Head of Field Operations and laterally as Assistant Director. I moved from the NJC to SELECT in 2006 as Head of Employment Affairs and The Secretary of the SJIB.

Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in

My first job in engineering construction was based at Torness Power Station whilst it was being built. There I dealt with industrial relations issues and Trade Union shop stewards.

After that – when I was with the NJC – I dealt with industrial relations issues at a regional and national level – again working with contractors and trade unions officers. I was involved with many projects throughout the UK including BP (now INEOS) Grangemouth, Sellafield, Sizewell B Power Station, projects for TOTAL, Mobil Oil, Shell at St Fergus near Peterhead and many more.

Where would you like to be in future?

My job at SELECT has grown with me. When I arrived, and as my job title indicates, I was employed to manage and deliver Employment Affairs on behalf of SELECT as well as run the SJIB (a partnership of employers with unite the union). Now I do that as well as internal Human Resources for SELECT and recently I was given responsibility for leading Strategic Skills & Qualifications portfolio for the electrotechnical sector in Scotland.

I am 58 and have had a fantastically interesting career. I have met a whole host of wonderful, interesting and passionate people along the way. I feel there is more I can do, and more I can offer. Of course, I would like recognition and promotion but, there is plenty to achieve with SELECT and it will take a while to get it right and I like to get things right.

What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

The number of women in electrical contracting could and should be better.  It has improved since I first started but there is a long way to go.  There are many wives and partners who support their male partners in their business – they are in senior positions, but it is all taken for granted.  What’s more, there is no reason why they couldn’t also be the electrician?  In this day and age, there should be no barriers.

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

Yes. The culture needs to change. Construction is a tough gig but there are as many strong (tough) women out there as men. We should live in a meritocracy. We need to open people’s minds and show them how exciting and creative the construction industry is.

We need to improve the image of construction and make it attractive to young girls, their families and their teachers. We need to get young people thinking about exciting, varied opportunities rather than hard hats and high-vis jackets. Women need flexible working packages so that they can blend their work life with their home life.

What has your employer and / or previous employers done to facilitate this?

From the very start of my career, I have had my detractors. There were people who I didn’t even know, yet had views on my ability to do my job. All of them believed the construction industry was not the place for a woman. However, each and every one of my employers has had faith in me and has given me the chance to prove my worth. I don’t think I have let any of them down and, because of that, I have either been recommended or head hunted for all of my positions since joining Babcocks.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

SELECT delivers ‘vital’ training to building standards verification staff

The campaigning body for the electrotechnical trade in Scotland is delivering awareness training to local authority staff that carry out verification activities across Scotland.

The training, which is now in its third year, is a joint venture between SELECT, NICEIC and LABSS and is aimed at raising standards and awareness of new developments in safety and building standards.

Dave Forrester, head of technical services with SELECT, said: “Working closely with industry colleagues in the NICEIC and LABSS, we have developed vital training for those verifying the safety of Scotland’s built environment.

“In addition to the training, SELECT helps local authorities understand the benefits of certification and of employing properly trained and qualified professionals for all projects.”

The series of eight training events are being held throughout February and cover all 32 local authorities under the aegis of Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS).

This year’s training, which has been developed in response to the Grenfell tragedy in London, and lessons learnt from the Cole Report following the collapse of a wall in Oxgangs Primary, includes revised standards for fire safety and fire detection/alarm systems.

In addition, training in preparation for the introduction of a new edition of BS 7671 – The IET Wiring Regulations, published this year on July 1, will be included in the events.

SELECT’s close working relationship with the Scottish Government’s Building Standards Division (BSD) will continue with the recent appointment of Stephen Garvin as the new Head of BSD.

Mr Forrester said: “I welcome the appointment of Stephen to this position. He has a long-standing history of expertise in building standards and I look forward greatly to working with him to forward the cause of certification of construction.”