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New BESA president calls for unity of purpose

Neil Brackenridge has been elected to serve as president of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) for 2020/21.

He was confirmed in his role at today’s annual general meeting and takes over from John Norfolk of Imtech Engineering Services.

Mr Brackenridge is MEP regional director Midlands & North at Wates Group. He was chair of the BESA North West region from 2017 to 2019 and has been BESA National Education Committee and Skills Partnership chair since 2017.

He has a long and distinguished career in the sector having also worked for Imtech, CHt, SES and Rosser & Russell after commencing his career as a craft apprentice with Crown House Engineering. He was privileged to be recognised and chosen as the Principle Winner of the HVCA Alfred Manly Award in 2002.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Brackenridge said it was vital that the industry did not go back to “business as usual” following the current Covid-19 crisis and called for contractors to harness the “unity of purpose” displayed during the pandemic to create a better future.

“We saw a new model for co-operative working on the NHS Nightingale emergency hospital projects,” he told the AGM. “Let’s harness that unity of purpose to create a new collaborative model for all projects from now on.”

He said that spirit of co-operation and mutual support could also be used to inspire a whole new generation of engineers.

“Young people will be more inclined towards careers in building engineering if they see us making a difference in this way and working together for the greater good,” said Mr Brackenridge, who also pointed out the significance of the Prime Minister making support for apprenticeships a key part of his strategy for economic recovery.

“Young people have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis and we are in danger of losing yet another cohort of apprentices. Employers must reflect on this and recognise that we will need this new generation to help us rebuild,” said Mr Brackenridge.

The new BESA president acknowledged that the sector faced a challenging time as buildings were gradually brought back into use after the crisis.

“Restarting the economy means restarting its buildings, but that presents a series of challenges,” he said. “Going into the lockdown was relatively straightforward – getting out of it is proving complicated – not least the technical challenges involved in safely re-opening buildings and rebooting their services; and how to remain productive while getting to grips with new site restrictions.”

He highlighted the importance of continuing to implement the Hackitt reforms to fire and building safety, with a key focus on Competence and Compliance as well as the need for large-scale programmes to improve energy efficiency and retrofit heating systems to low-carbon alternatives to reach the UK’s net zero goals.

He also praised BESA for showing great “support and leadership” for the building services sector during the coronavirus outbreak  “not least with its daily webinar updates each accompanied by a wealth of information to help us all deal with this most challenging of times and provide hugely valuable clarity and guidance”.

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