Bob Merriman took office as chief executive of the National Federation of Builders at the beginning of last month.He told Joanna Booth how he plans to tackle the issues facing his 3,000 members.
How did you get into the industry?
I started as a carpenter for a firm in the Midlands, which was taken over by Galliford.Now I am operational director of Galliford Try Construction Central.The company first encouraged me to get involved with the National Federation of Builders 10 years ago.The managing director was keen for us to support trade federations. I became president of the Warrington branch and was North West chairman for the last two years.
What is the most important issue for your members?
We have been campaigning for a long time to get VAT reduced on domestic work. It would really benefit smaller builders and I believe the public would receive a better service.We will continue to lobby on this issue until we get a satisfactory outcome.
The NFB launched its own accreditation scheme last year.How will you ensure it has more success than the Government's Quality Mark?
Our Construction Accredited Partner Scheme is an industry-led initiative and measures companies on a very wide spectrum of competencies. It's not just based on experience.We look at training, health and safety - it's all rolled into one initial desktop review. CAPS also allows the company to improve by incorporating a training programme.Our training is coordinated by the CITB, even covering areas such as partnering and procurement strategies.Those companies that have already achieved the Quality Mark can move into our scheme at a set level and then advance. We're the first trade association to roll out a scheme like this.We have the support of the NHS Estates scheme, which has given us a boost.
What is new on your agenda?
We have just completed a survey of our members in which we analysed their level of IT skills.We were quite surprised by the variation in results. Some are very advanced but it's safe to say that for most people in the industry there's a long way to go. At the moment we are looking at how we can help our members improve their skills.
Two years ago the NFB ran into financial difficulties.What is the situation now?
We're back in the black and we also forecast a surplus next financial year.We looked at the way our finances were managed and have taken steps to tighten procedures.
Are there any issues particularly close to your heart?
I believe the Government should alter its strategy for attracting young people into the industry. Instead of sending everyone through university, some 18-year-olds could take the tremendous opportunities for advancement through company management training programmes, or become successful in the trades.The Government is not highlighting the many pathways into the industry.