The Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) is the UK’s leading trade body representing the best in electrical engineering and building services. Dave Kieft, the newly appointed president of the ECA, talks about the association and his journey to becoming a key figure in the engineering and building services sector in Wales.
Tell us about your organisation (ECA).
The ECA is one of the UK’s longest-standing and innovative construction trade associations, and continues to be a strong advocate for its members, the building services sector and the wider industry. The ECA provides high quality services to members, such as a technical helpline and the e-RAMS risk assessment service, and works closely with government and industry on key issues such as skills, regulations and investment. My company, RDM Electrical & Mechanical services has been a member for around 25 years.
What are the plans for the organisation for the next five years, and where do you see challenges and opportunities?
My Presidency of the ECA lasts for just one year, and during this time I hope to raise awareness of the organisation as being the leading trade body for companies that operate within the building services engineering sector. There are wider issues within the sector to tackle, in particular the growing skills shortages and fair payment, and these will also be at the top of my priority list.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
I wish I knew then what I know now, but I suppose that’s an obvious one. I wish I had spent more time learning from the older generation and professional people and businesses around me that were an endless source of information and experience.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
There are always items that you wish you could have changed from the past but then you would not have learnt the lessons you had. I don’t reflect too much on the past and concentrate on what I can change, which is the future.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
The most important qualities for success are honesty, integrity and quality of service.
What advice would you give to those in the building engineering services industry thinking of starting a business?
I would advise all people entering the sector to join a professional body such as the ECA and learn from the vast array of industry experienced people who belong to such an association who are only too willing to assist with your business development. Take advantage of the wide array of services a membership to such an organisation can bring.
What are your top three tips for success?
Perseverance, professionalism and customer focus.
Should the UK opt in or out of Europe?
While the ECA is remaining neutral in the debate, my personal view is that Britain should now stay in Europe as we would lose too much time from the withdrawal process, trying to disentangle the agreements already in place, leaving the government unable to effectively focus on positive plans and initiatives, such as investing in key projects in Wales.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
Wales has a great pool of talented and skilled workers, particularly in engineering and manufacturing. In addition, its coastal location and commitment to renewable energy provides a great opportunity for energy innovation and investment, particularly through major projects such as the tidal bay lagoon, which will support jobs and local economies.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
The challenge is to effectively bring together both industry and government to ensure that investment is targeted effectively across Wales. The country needs to clearly articulate the case for stability and investment in key Welsh sectors, such as manufacturing and renewables, and it’s vital that government responds effectively to this. Ensuring the viability of Tata steel is just one example of a core Welsh industry which needs support.