31st October 2023
Federation

I write this piece shortly after my arrival back from the World Demolition Summit in Toronto, where I was on the lookout on behalf of the NFDC.

As many of you will have experienced yourselves, the red-eye back from the west side of the pond can play havoc with your body clock. Just as you’re ready to go to sleep, the sunrise is rushing towards you at around 1,300mph (speed of the plane, plus speed of the earth’s rotation for the mathematicians amongst you) and the glow of a new day creeps through the window. The air crew turn on the cabin lights and bring you a coffee and, what feels like, a very mistimed breakfast.

This was the experience I had after the summit, followed by a day catching up on emails and digesting an interesting and challenging array of speeches and discussions.

As you go about your day-to-day work it’s easy to miss what is going on in the wider world, we’re all heads down and focused on the workload before us. Conferences such as this are brilliant opportunities to step outside of this bubble and to get fresh ideas and inspiration.

The summit provided much opportunity to chat with people from associations around the world, contractors, and industry service providers. A chance to explore key issues and see what best practice people are putting in place.

Jonathan Cox meets with Jose Blanco of the European Demolition Association.

Throughout the day, 10 speakers covered an array of topics, including explosive demolition, branding and marketing, talent and skills, urban demolition, and client management, amongst others.

My primary take-away from those sessions and break-time conversations is one of hope and positivity and a renewed call to arms for us all. For us as the NFDC, for each and every corporate member and for every ISP. Equally for other supply chain partners, clients and global associations.

There is so much great practice and exciting innovation taking place across our industry. Not only does this need to continue, but we also need to raise our voices even louder to share these stories with the industry, with government and with wider society…because demolition IS a new dawn for society, though people don’t always realise it.

Igniting Moments

Two particular sessions summarise this point perfectly. One was the session on talent and skills that I presented. This was based on some research into the challenges of recruiting the required talent and how we can address this issue of ensuring a sustainable workforce for the future. The other was a talk by LaJuan Counts on the Detroit City regeneration project.

In the talent and skills session, I shared much about the challenges faced by, and perceptions held about, our industry – by both the industry itself and the young people who will form the future workforce.

The summary is that our workforces are getting older, it is getting harder to recruit the talent we need, and young people do not see demolition as an appealing career choice.

Why?

Well, because perceptions are that the industry is dirty, polluting, dangerous, offers little positive benefit to society and doesn’t present great career development or pay opportunities.

All perceptions we know to be untrue.

LaJuan Counts shared details of the project she is working on to demolish and regenerate over 20,000 properties and disused industrial facilities in run down parts of Detroit. The scale and pace of the project is truly astonishing, as is the level of community engagement that is being undertaken to ensure the works are carried out in a sensitive manner and a fit for purpose new development is delivered.

The works there were a shining example of how demolition provides new starts for communities, and how it truly creates opportunity for such a wide section of society.

On the final evening of the summit we were treated to an excellent awards dinner and ceremony, in which NFDC members made a great showing of shortlisted entries from Kocurek Excavators, Thompsons of Prudhoe, Erith Group, Rye Group, Brown and Mason and Colemans with wins for Thompsons of Prudhoe and Colemans.

Well done to you all!

The sun rises

Coming away from the summit, with these thoughts in mind and having held fruitful conversations around working groups with other demolition associations, the call is for us all to recognise and remember the transformative work that we do.

To shout about the positive impact we have on society, the opportunities created for young people and those looking for a second career. To promote the huge progress made in greening the industry and improving safety and the exciting innovation we see in new methodologies and technology.

At the NFDC we have several projects lined up to further raise the volume about the positive work our members do and continue to advocate for the industry.   Demolition provides so much opportunity for so many and could well be that early morning glow through the window as society hurtles towards a new dawn.

Originally published Oct 31, 2023 10:38:41 AM, updated May 13 2024.