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10 Nov 2022 < Back

My first few weeks and the opportunities ahead

My first few weeks with the Association have been an eye opener into life at the PCA. Whilst as a contractor, I never really had time to stop and think about what the PCA actually did. But, I was fully aware that being associated & qualified with the PCA was very important to the company’s growth & needs. To take a leap from one green pasture to another is no easy feat, but it was a decision which was encouraged by many of my industry peers. 

Over the years I have collected countless particles of dirt under my fingernails from excavations and on an untold number of occasions, had wet feet from surveying in the torrential rain and heavy shoulders from carrying knapsacks of herbicides. It is this practical experience though that I believe will serve me well within the PCA and will help me focus on the priorities and needs of our members. 

Diving in at the deep end

Getting back to how I have found it so far, life is already pretty busy within my new role at the PCA. Much like theatre or a cinematic masterpiece, you simply don’t appreciate what goes on behind the scenes. 

My first job has seen me “diving in at the deep end” with a review of the ‘Management of Japanese knotweed training’ and other associated documentation. Whilst the qualification is a fantastic insight into Japanese Knotweed and surveying, I am a believer there are always opportunities for improvement. As an Association, can we do more to improve the practical elements of the exam and are there potential areas omitted in the exam that could ensure the continual improvement of our industry?

Apart from the CSJK review, I have been busy making myself known with an introductory email sent to every one of our invasive weed members, which I hope you have received! As I mentioned at the start, I am very keen to support you, our members, and to have your voice heard.  

Challenges & opportunities in 2023 and beyond

Looking ahead to 2023, I think it is fair to say there are uncertain times ahead for our members (and many other professionals)...but that does not mean there are not opportunities too! We have the likelihood of a long recession, a cost of living crisis and a changing Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) industry. We are seeing the requirement for Integrated Weed Management plans to try and reduce the dependency on chemicals and we have the much-needed mandatory biodiversity net gains policy (due to be implemented), which has been sending shockwaves through the construction industry. 

As much as there is a ‘bumpy road’ ahead, if I have learned anything over the years in this industry, PCA members have always been adaptable and resourceful. I see these challenges being overcome, opening new doors, creating new opportunities, and along with your Association, I certainly want to ensure we support our members as best we can.  

Overcoming the skills shortage?

My biggest concern however, is the lack of youngsters in the industry. INNS as an industry is not the only sector that is facing this crisis. How desirable is working outside, in cold, wet, and windy conditions compared to the bright lights of cyber security or other technological industries? 

As industry experts slowly begin to leave the sector, both your Association and I fear that their knowledge and experience may also leave with them – along with the possibility of passing on those valuable 20+ years of experience to an eager youngster willing to learn the ropes! The invasive weed sector is an industry that has expanded with competition and tender opportunities over the last decade. This has resulted (understandably) in the need for an employee “right now”, heavily outweighing the need for the “right” employee in several years’ time. 

I am aware, however, there are companies who are already beginning to battle this situation by introducing Kickstarter schemes, but for me, I struggle to see how these very limited places will stem the bleeding of a massive skills shortage. It’s a work in progress to which I commend the companies who are taking on these youngsters, and outlining a 5+ year training plan for the new generation of invasive weed remediation specialists. I, for one, am fully open to suggestions and would love to hear any ideas on how we can improve on this.

Lastly…the Conference

Before signing off on my first blog for the Association, I just wanted to remind our invasive weed members that your conference is only 2 weeks away and I am looking forward to seeing & meeting many of our members…some for the first time.

It will be my first opportunity to really engage with you and I am keen to hear your views. For those who know me or have had the pleasure (or pain) of working with me, then I’m sure you will all agree that I’m not backwards in coming forwards and I am always open to suggestions and ideas. I know when something is wrong and I’m not scared to push for change when it’s needed. If there are issues or challenges that your Association can work or support our members on, then as I mentioned, I am certainly keen to hear about them.

Until the conference though, I will continue to work hard on your behalf and I look forward to seeing many of you in two weeks’ time.

Daniel

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