Denise Tuffy, from the Construction Industry Federation’s Specialist Contracting office, discusses her role as executive support to the Mechanical and Electrical Contractors Association and how M&ECA represents Ireland’s electrical contractors….
The Mechanical and Electrical Contractors Association (M&ECA) is the umbrella association for the Electrical Contractors Association and the Mechanical Engineering and Building Services Contractors Association.
My role as CIF’s Specialist Contracting Executive is to provide support to the M&ECA, and is incredibly varied. I lead M&ECA initiatives such as the formation of therfrr M&ECA Working Group on Apprenticeships and Recruitment. This ensures that the M&E perspective – which is of huge importance given that electrical and engineering make up approximately 60% of the current apprenticeship population – is communicated to CIF’s Education Training and Skills Committee, which leads initiatives.
I organise events such as the M&ECA Golf Outing and various conferences and report at meetings on issues surrounding procurement and tendering, answering queries from members in this regard.
From a CIF level, I coordinate activities around the formation of courses such as an upcoming Certificate in High Voltage, which is about to be launched by SETU and TUS in conjunction with industry.
I also facilitate member visits to keep up-to-date on activities within the industry and communicate the CIF values as well as knowledge sharing in relation to policy from government level.
The M&ECA as an organisation represents M&E contractors at government level to ensure their voice is heard. This task spans across a range of government departments and activities. For example, in relation to the inflation and supply chain cooperation framework that was released in May 2022, the Specialist Contracting Department worked closely with the Main Contracting Department to ensure that the views of specialist contracting were taken into account.
A further item of huge importance has been the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021–2025, which was released by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Research. The intention outlined in the report is to migrate all apprenticeships to the consortium-led model. As the current proposal stands – given that there is a lot to be ironed out at the moment – it could potentially have a hugely negative impact on the current craft model. The M&E sector is heavily involved in CIF’s Education, Training and Skills Committee, which is the main vehicle through which their opinions are voiced.
Given the number of employees and apprentices employed by the M&E sector, good labour relations are of importance. Assistance and support are offered through the CIF’s Industrial Relations department and lobbying on behalf of members’ interests takes place with stakeholders, including the unions. This is of particular importance to members in relation to the SEO process. Regular updates that are of vital importance to members in their day-to-day operations are communicated on a regular basis.
The M&ECA offers commercial support to its members in terms of assistance with understanding contracts and associated complexities such as design responsibility etc. Also, information is communicated to allow members to gauge the commercial environment in which all members of the Association are operating.
The M&ECA provides technical inputs to regulations and gives members a vehicle through which they can voice their opinions. It also keeps them informed ofregulations/legislation that have or will be coming into existence and what the impact of such regulations/legislation will have on their companies.
One of the main challenges currently facing our electrical contractor members is the ability to maintain a healthy pipeline of labour in relation to apprentices and qualified crafts personal. It is of extreme importance that legislation is not introduced that could damage the stability of the industry. This is why the maintenance of the SEO process is of such high importance to electrical contracting members.
A further key concern is the geographical location of projects, with many Irish contractors securing work throughout Europe and beyond. Both logistical and legislative processes due to differing jurisdictions have to be taken into consideration, which is a challenge. Also, due to the large scope of some projects undertaken by Irish electrical contractors, further specialisation and fragmentation of the trades is taking place. This is fundamentally changing the way contractors work in respect to certain projects.
What’s next for M&ECA?
The M&ECA is excited about the recent appointment of the first female officer of the M&ECA. Joanne Cluxton from Mercury Engineering was recently appointed as the Vice President of the ECA. This signifies a change in the industry, which has gained a much stronger awareness of the importance of diversity than it had only a number years ago. While there is much to do, the Association recognises the importance of incorporating diversity into their businesses.
M&ECA membership benefits
• Joining the M&ECA allows members to have an input into regulations that impact the M&E sector.
• Submissions are made as required in relation to NSAI regulations, including the introduction of regulation for non-domestic gas installers etc.
• This provides an overview of the dynamic changing environment that members are working in to ensure they are best placed to win and tender for work.
• Commercial support is given in terms of understanding contracts and related contractual complexities.