Sustainability, digitisation and adopting exciting new technologies are key to building back from the coronavirus pandemic, according to presenters at this year’s Summit of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), hosted for the first time ever as a virtual event along with a digital prize-giving for the International Awards for Powered Access (IAPAs) on 18 March 2021.
The theme of the IPAF Summit will consider the question of sustainability in powered access, the challenges of operating safely and effectively in the post-Covid-19 era, and the opportunities of digital and technological innovation for safer work at height.
Suzannah Nichol, CEO of Build UK, said during her Summit-opening presentation: “How do we grow and build sustainable businesses? Pay suppliers on time, treat staff well, and invest in new technology. That’s what IPAF and Build UK have in common. We benchmark our members, and most now pay their suppliers within 30 days – while we’re not there yet, we have made great strides on this issue.
“We also want to make our industry more efficient, reduce waste and increase productivity. Why have one form when you can have ten, seems to be our industry’s mantra at times, and so we are building a new prequalification framework, the Common Assessment Standard. We think this will save the industry up to £1 billion a year, not to mention reduce paperwork and free up key staff for other more productive tasks.
“Last but by no means least we focus on people: Recruiting, training and retaining talent. Without the right people, we can’t operate. It is up to all of us to take our enthusiasm, passion and skills into schools to encourage young people into our industry. How we train people is really important and IPAF is definitely a leading light in that department. We need to provide more apprenticeship places and encourage young people into them. Finally, working flexibly has seen a major shift in the past year.
“Everyone who has participated in this event has the power to do things differently, every one of us has a part to play in making our industry better, and we all need to ask ourselves what part will that be?”
In answer to questions about the post-pandemic future, she added: “Construction work is holding up and the figures from February 2021 show we are back to pre-pandemic levels already, albeit a lot of that is catching up on the existing pipeline; we are keeping an eye on the pipeline for the future, and we need to do all we can to make sure that the UK is a great place to do business in future.”
The presentations and discussions were interspersed by announcements of the category winners of the 2020-21 IAPAs, as well as video presentations from sponsors and a closing virtual delegate networking session. There was also a video about how IPAF member firms have supported clients, communities or charities in the pandemic.
The event was hosted by Mark Durden Smith, a TV presenter in the UK. Thanks to the support of event sponsors, registration for the event was free and more than 1,000 participants from no fewer than 67 countries worldwide.