Q&A with Rob Bartlett, CEO of the British Valve & Actuator Association (BVAA)
Q: Hi Rob, Firstly thank you for your time with us today. We have heard great things from the recent regional dinner, what were the main topics of the supplier day in Feb? Also, not long now until the spring conference which we are all excited to hear more about especially in regards to the Keynote speakers. Can you share with us any confirmed speakers for the event?
A: You’re right, the Yorkshire Regional Dinner is rapidly becoming one of the BVAA’s largest gatherings – unsurprising when one realises Brighouse is the spiritual home of the British Valve industry. The related ‘Supplier Day’ essentially recognises that BVAA’s not just about British Valve manufacturers, but that we also encompass the whole supply chain for the British Valve industry. It’s a day where our own OEMs ‘speed date’ with component and service suppliers, many of whom they are meeting for the first time. As well as giving our supplier-members a chance to pitch for business, it also gives our OEMs the chance to see what’s out there – something we’re usually more known for doing for our own industry’s customers. We facilitated nearly 100 official interactions in a single morning, with lots more going on in the mini exhibition that’s held alongside.
And Yes, the May Conference & Golf Day at Celtic Manor is the highlight of the year. Speakers confirmed to date include Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne on trading with Iraq and the role of a trade envoy, Professor Joe Nellis of Cranfield is attempting to look beyond the horizon for us, in a similar vein Jeremy Leonard of Oxford Economics is introducing our new and unique Global Valve Markets Forecast Report, Steve Robertson of Douglas Westwood is speaking on the oil and gas sector’s prospects, and we’ve some exciting news to announce shortly about a major user coming to speak too.
Q: We have had a strong start to 2017 and the BVAA Members make up a significant number of jobs within the manufacturing industry. How can we continue to grow nationally in the coming years?
A: Oil & Gas, particularly the UKCS, has had something of a torrid time of late, and we are just beginning to see the feint glimmerings of some sort of recovery in Aberdeen and beyond, the extent of which has yet to be determined. This inevitably has had a knock-on effect to the valve industry which is heavily, although not solely, reliant on this important British asset. Government support for Oil & Gas – of all types – is essential. For one thing it’s a major revenue stream for the Treasury through taxation, but also it’s the phenomenal skills base it maintains and develops. Every step imaginable – and perhaps some that haven’t been envisioned yet – needs to be employed to support this jewel in the crown. That said, other valve end-user industries have borne the latest trials and tribulations quite well, and BVAA members in these sectors have proven very resilient – mainly due to their superior products and services. Investing in people is the key to everything however, and young people particularly. The resurgence in Apprenticeships needs to be boosted still further, and we need to get a grip on the out-of-kilter economic situation that denies these youngsters affordable housing and certainty in their employment.
Q: The BVAA have stood strong for 80 years now and their member contribute so much to our industry. What can expect in the future from you and is there anything our readers should look out for in the near future?
A: We’ve had more Future Strategy meetings in the BVAA in the last 10 years than we have the preceding 7 decades I think! We’re constantly on the lookout for new and innovative services to members – no mean feat from such an incredibly diverse industry and thus diverse membership. We are also essentially a not-for-profit organisation and that brings its own challenges too. Our eye at the moment is on securing Business Development opportunities and we’ve a relatively new working group in the BVAA dedicated to finding and exploiting these for the wider membership. Our magazine ‘Valveuser’ is a great vehicle for members’ PR – indeed it’s so professional that many do not realise it is a trade association-led journal. We also run three different websites now, with a broad range of services to our own members, and their customers. That’s the key I feel – we are the interface between these two groups, both of which we can mutually benefit.
The other major activity at the moment is our Future Leaders Programme. Each year we take a dozen or so talented individuals from member companies, usually in their first role with major responsibility, and ‘de-silo’ them by giving a range of industry site-visits and experiences days, technical training and a comprehensive personal development programme, all without charge. They attain a wealth of knowledge and experience in a fraction of the time, without having to leave their employers. The pilot programme was a runaway success, and we are already creating an alumni of young, enthusiastic and well-rounded individuals with all the skills the industry needs.
Q: Lastly I wanted to ask you about how more businesses can get involved and become members? How would relevant companies get involved?
A: The easiest way is to take a look at bvaa.org.uk or – and I’m a shameless traditionalist on this – just call the BVAA on 01295 221270 and I’d be delighted to talk through how we can help.