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Honouring SELECT’s unsung hero at this year’s President’s Lunch

Alick Smith receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at our annual event filled with celebrations and surprises and featuring special guest Monica Lennon MSP

Monica Lennon speaks to the assembled group

An afternoon of celebration and surprises was served up in spectacular surroundings at the second SELECT President’s Lunch, sponsored by Electrium.

Hosted once again at the voco® Grand Central Glasgow hotel, the event saw around 100 specially invited guests gather for a high-profile networking event.

Delegates included senior government figures, along with other leading representatives from the UK’s major electrical and construction organisations.

Monica Lennon MSP was the headline speaker at the bash on Friday 29 September, which also saw SELECT honour association stalwart Alick Smith with our Lifetime Achievement Award. As well as industry guests and members of the SELECT Central Board, also in attendance were Ian Hunter, Dave Clark and Gary Shirkey from Associate Member Electrium, who were the event’s official headline sponsor.

Fellow Associate Member MacRoberts LLP kept guests refreshed as the official drinks sponsor and were represented at the event by Neil Kelly, David Wilson and Rebecca Barass.

And magician and Britain’s Got Talent star Kevin Quantum made sure delegates were entertained before, during and after dinner with some amazing illusions and sleight of hand.

Working together

The lunch itself began with a welcome speech from SELECT Managing Director Alan Wilson, who emphasised the importance of collaboration and cooperation.

He told guests: “In a small country like Scotland, all of us are connected in some way to fellow professionals in our industry. If you look round the room today, I guess you will know most people – or you will know someone who knows the person you don’t. “And because we are so close, it makes perfect sense to collaborate and co-operate with these connections. Most of us face the same issues, and most of us are committed to improving our industry so the key is co-operation.

“The launch last year of the Scottish Construction Accord is the perfect opportunity to put our low levels of separation to good use and work collectively, and collaboratively, to improve everyone’s lives. “Change never happens without effort and as an industry we have a great chance of making a difference. The opportunity is in our hands and we CAN make it happen.”

Alan then turned his attention to net zero, making a call for greater clarity and direction from government after recent uncertainty.

He told delegates: “We all need a clear path and clear leadership as we face our biggest challenge but this seems to be missing. Have no doubts, the industry can deliver, but it needs to know when and what so it can prepare properly.”

Warm welcome

Taking to the stage next, SELECT President Alistair Grant used his speech to thank members of fellow trade organisations for attending, including Andrew Eldred from our English counterparts, the ECA.

He also welcomed Paul Collins and Eddie Arrowsmith from Certsure, Wayne McKay from Electrical Safety First, Jay Parmar from the JIB, Steven Devine from the IET and Richard Jack and Margaret Fitzsimons from the Electrical Distributors’ Association.

Others welcomed by the President included George Baxter, Fiona Hodgson, Stephanie Lowe and Barry Sharp from SNIPEF, Diane Drummond and David Frise from BESA, SJIB Chair Jock Simpson and Mark Watt from the National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry.

Alistair’s final greetings went to Gordon Nelson from the FMB, Vaughan Hart and Ian Honeyman of the SBF, the CIOB’s Kevin Gibb, Robbie Toomey of RICS, Ron Fraser from Construction Scotland and Stephen Good, Douglas Morrison and Matthew Paton from BE-ST.

Challenges and change

Our guest speaker of the day was Ms Lennon, Labour MSP for Central Scotland, who echoed Alan Wilson’s call for collaboration and cooperation to help the construction sector overcome the many challenges that lay ahead.

Ms Lennon, who is Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Construction, also said that net zero would be one such challenge that the sector would have to embrace.

She told guests: “Net zero offers huge challenges, but it is a journey we cannot avoid. We need to create an open dialogue between politicians, the construction industry and society as a whole to ensure we have the right skills to reach our objective.

“We don’t necessarily have all the answers and we need space to figure it out, but by working collaboratively we can overcome the challenges of reaching net zero to fight the global climate emergency, since the price of not doing so will be much higher.

In all of this, organisations like SELECT have a massive role to play.” Ms Lennon – who worked for more than a decade as a chartered town planner – added: “The work the construction industry does, year in year out, in building communities for our constituents is hugely appreciated, but we do not say thank you enough.

“Whether in creating new homes, driving innovation, providing opportunities for our young people to enjoy highly skilled, well-paid work, and stressing the importance of a safe working environment, it is the construction sector that lights a path for everyone.”

‘unsung hero’ honoured

It was then on to the finale, as Director of Employment & Skills Fiona Harper joined Alistair at the podium to announce the recipient of this year’s SELECT Lifetime Achievement Award.

Announcing the honour, Fiona said: “This person is the true definition of what I would call an unsung hero. Over the years, they have done a great deal of work on behalf of our industry, quietly and efficiently, never seeking the limelight and rarely receiving the recognition they deserve.

“I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with this person, travelling thousands of miles and consuming vast amounts of black coffee. They are a fantastic ambassador for our industry, always on hand to offer support and guidance with a quiet, discreet, yet totally significant word.

“They are also immensely proud to be an electrician and be part of what they describe as a vibrant and exciting trade, and especially enjoy spending time with the apprentices and future electricians who, in their opinion, society cannot live without.”

To resounding cheers, Fiona then revealed that the recipient of this year’s award was former SELECT President Alick Smith, who has played a key role in the association for decades, most recently as lead negotiator in wage discussions with Unite the Union.

After accepting his award, Alick thanked the assembled guests, saying: “I am extremely humbled to be the recipient of this distinguished award.

“When I look back, the role of an electrician has changed greatly over the years, but with all the new technology, we still have a long road to travel, with plenty of things we need to stay abreast of, so it’s more important than ever that we are competent in everything we do.

“I would also like to thank everyone at SELECT for their support and guidance over the years and I still feel that it is great to be a Member.”

There was time for one more surprise after the presentation, with Kevin entertaining the audience with further illusions, which involved participation from guests including SELECT Central Board members Craig McGowan and Darren Crockett.

After it was revealed that the event had raised more than £500 for the Electrical Industries Charity, there was time for more networking, with guests staying at the venue to chat with friends and colleagues into the early evening.

Alan said: “The second President’s Lunch was another tremendous success and we would like to thank everyone who attended and helped us celebrate all that is good about our industry.”


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