Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, colleagues, industry partners – welcome to the inaugural national conference of the Fire and Security Association. There is a Roman proverb that says; “Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis”. Roughly translated this means that the times change and people change with them.
From my personal perspective I would certainly concur with the proverb, as little did I realise when I joined the contracting sector eighteen years ago that I would undertake such a journey through such a changing industry and that I would find myself here, in the wonderful surroundings of Drapers Hall in the City of London, as Head of the Fire and Security Association, speaking to you about the rapid progress of the association, its achievements and the ever changing marketplace in which it operates.
Founded in January 2007 as a specialist operating division of the Electrical Contractors’ Association and now working in partnership with its sister organisation SELECT in Scotland, the FSA has grown significantly in both size and profile and now has more than 300 member companies across the United Kingdom.
Insofar as positioning is concerned, this means that the FSA now represents the largest grouping of companies that design, install, commission, monitor and maintain electronic fire and security systems.
The success of the organisation, however, should not be so surprising to those who know about the FSA’s pedigree. As far back as 1901 when the ECA was founded, some members were already experimenting with prototype intruder and fire alarms, based on systems developed in the USA in the 1850s.
This technical expertise has evolved within the ECA’s 3000 plus members and some 75% of those members are involved in the installation of fire systems and 50% in the installation of security systems.
Using the ECA as a firm foundation, the FSA has grown to be a significant player in the building services engineering sector, independently from its parent organisation and it has a great deal to offer, especially in difficult economic times such as these, where many installers are worried about their future. Essentially the FSA, acting as a specialist hub between the ECA and SELECT, is a business that exists to ensure that its member’s business not only survive, but thrive and flourish and to that end the FSA must, and does, add value.
Although very much part of the building services engineering sector, the FSA has also, due to the very nature of the technological solutions its members install, a strong foothold in the security and risk management sector, which means that it has twice the exposure to pre-qualification, regulation (including our RVRC members under the SIA), certification and general third party control. It also means that it is constantly under scrutiny and in the public eye, but we will hear more about that, from our guest speakers, later.
Having recently reflected, together with the FSA Chairman Steve Kimber, on the evolution of the FSA to date, I would like to share some of its tangible successes.
Firstly, by establishing very clear member focussed objectives, the FSA has developed a business model that has made its parent organisation look at its own way of operating, there are some that say that the child has led the parent in some areas, but in reality the FSA members have simply recognised how attractive the membership benefits are offered via the ECA and have embraced them with a new enthusiasm and purpose.
Members gain direct access to well established regional support infrastructures, across 12 regions, 11 regional offices, a head office and 2 support offices, and 53 branches and a comprehensive range of services and benefits delivered by qualified, and industry recognised, ECA specialists and then we have SELECT’S excellent infrastructure in Scotland! Members also benefit from the fact that the FSA, being a relatively new trade body, has no baggage. It was launched with a clear and inclusive strategy for the future and close, productive, working relationships have been established between FSA employees and members ensuring that the FSA is member driven.
In practical terms, this means that both FSA employees and members can now be found, working in unison, on British, European, CFOA, ACPO, SummitSkills and other standards and policy setting committees. FSA representatives have also engaged with UK Government and the official opposition party with regard to the skills agenda and related topics.
Partnership is at the heart of FSA ethos.
Rather than trying to compete, we value the expertise and experience that other organisations have to offer and to that end, the FSA continues to build its public profile and develop close working relationships with a number of key influencing bodies, such as the aforementioned ACPO, CFOA, where the FSA was consulted on the revision of the CFOA Policy for the Reduction of False Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals, and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). We are of course delighted to welcome Steve Norman from CFOA who will be speaking here today, especially as the policy has now become a protocol and has been launched. The development of the FBU relationship, has seen an unparalled association to produce and distribute 55,000 short guides to BS 5839-1, to fire service personnel in order to improve awareness of the appropriate standard for fire detection and alarm systems. It is rare, that the FBU chooses to be associated with other representative bodies and we are, therefore, delighted by this publication, which features a foreword by Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU. I would also like to welcome Dave Sibert who project managed the relationship with the FSA for the FBU. The guide is a customised version of an existing guide in the highly acclaimed FSA Short Guide Series which have proven so popular with our members, that the FSA Board has now approved the production of an extensive range of guides to cover Emergency Lighting, CCTV, Access Control and Intruder Alarms. These publications will be produced throughout 2010 and circulated to all FSA and ECA members. Samples of the existing fire systems guides are available for you to take away today.
A more recent development is our agreement to sponsor the Security Institute’s guide to Risk Management, which we feel will be a further, essential, tool to those involved in any aspect of risk management.
Another highly productive relationship for the FSA has been its partnership with the Fire Protection Association to develop a suite of fire detection, alarms and emergency lighting courses, which are now fully accredited as BTEC qualifications – the first suite of qualifications of its kind for the industry.
Each of the courses is now underpinned by the recently revised National Occupational Standards in Electronic Systems and has been allocated a number of credits which equate to BTEC qualifications. I would like to personally thank the ECA’s education and training department and Howard Passey of the FPA for the work they dedicated to the success of this joint initiative.
Remaining with the theme of education and training, we are also pleased to be associated with TAVCOM Training, which is now a preferred provider of training to the FSA and which has also developed an excellent range of training programmes that are also based on the National Occupational Standards and lead to BTEC qualifications on the electronic security systems side.
National Occupational Standards remain somewhat of an issue to many members of the FSA, especially those that worked on the recent redevelopment. It is felt, that because all electronic, electrical and data and controls installation occupational standards sit with the SSC SummitSkills and the electronic fire and security systems standards sit with another organisation, a disjoint exists where the interests of specifically the fire systems installers are not adequately addressed and we would hope in the future that Government plans to rationalise the number of organisations involved in the development of occupational standards will address this issue.
On a far more positive note is the matter of the £10m Education and Training fund established by the ECA. The interest from this fund is used every year to sponsor individuals employed by FSA and ECA member companies through qualifications at Level 3 and above. Each FSA and ECA Registered Member company is eligible to draw down £5K per company per annum for the further education of their employees. Currently we have hundreds of individuals being sponsored through CIPD, CIM, CAA, HNC and many other general management qualifications including degree programmes.
I can today confirm that going forward the fund will also cover the Level 3 and 4 BTEC programmes for fire and security systems offered by the FPA and Tavcom respectively. In simple terms, this means that even those FSA members paying the basic subscription fee of £410 per annum qualify to draw down up to £5K per annum for the further education of their employees and there is no catch. This is not only a huge benefit to members, but also a major investment by the FSA and ECA in to the sector and a clear signal to Government that when it comes to skills development we mean business.
As a Fellow of the Security Institute it also gives me great pleasure to announce in front of my good friend and Institute Chairman, Mike Bluestone, and many respected fellow Institute members, that with immediate effect FSA and ECA members can also apply for full funding for the Certificate and Diploma in Security Management and we will be working very closely with the team at the Institute from now on to promote these excellent qualification routes. Now that the Institute, supported by my Livery Company the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals, whose Master Don Randall will be joining us this evening, has applied for Royal Charter, we feel it is even more important that the FSA plays its role in supporting continuous professional development in our industry, which is essential in ensuring it is ready for the next round of challenges and uncertainty.
And there is now a great deal of uncertainty across the many sectors in which our members work. For example, will all fire brigades adopt the CFOA protocol? Now that we have lost the SIA into a “phased transition to a new regulatory regime” will we be presented with a watered down alternative? Will allowing the devolved administrations more say on how regulation is delivered in the future cause renewed fragmentation?
Is it time to breathe new life into the dormant Joint Security Industry Council, which was based on a sound ethos and was much needed, but was undermined by Machiavellian politics, or are we seeing the emergence of a new forum, in the Security Alliance, and will that be truly inclusive? Whatever happens, we do need a body with a coordinating forum, but it must be a forum of representative bodies that represent the interests of the security and risk management profession and its employees and employers directly and not become confused by allowing individuals, companies and training providers to have equal billing and dictate direction.
Colleagues, many of us have been in this industry a very long time and although we should not dwell in the past, we can, and must, learn an awful lot from it and naturally the FSA would like to play its role in any future alliance that supports industry coheasion.
There are many further questions. When will we have to deal with the next terrorist incident in the UK? Will Government spending cuts cause further devastation to contractor’s businesses or indeed to national defence, public policing and other emergency services, which may be an opportunity for the private sector, but is more likely to leave us all very vulnerable.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we may not have the answers, but what the trade associations and professional bodies such as the FSA, Security Institute, Worship Company of Security Professionals, FPA, IPSA, ASIS and BSIA, who are all represented at senior level here today, can do, is step forward and demonstrate consistent and coherent leadership. Leadership that is free of ego, free of self interest, free of confusion and which benefits all of our members, (many of whom belong to several of our organisations). This will safeguard the public, our member’s clients and secure the future of our industry.
In conclusion, therefore, let us leave here today heralding a new era of representative body cooperation and collective industry leadership and let us ensure that we provide a business environment based on integrity, stability, security and safety for all.