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Interview: Drilling down to uplift expectations

martyn brocklesby approved pr

New British Drilling Association chairman Martyn Brocklesby speaks to GE about his plans for his two year tenure.

The British Drilling Association has a new chair and he’s determined raise the expectations of the industry.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” says Martyn Brocklesby, the new chair of the British Drilling Association (BDA), who will combine the post with his role as director for Geotechnical Engineering.

“The BDA is in a strong position, member numbers are continuing to grow every year, we have broad spectrum of members and the association’s financial reserves are heading towards 50% of annual turnover.”

Brocklesby, who is replacing Raeburn Drilling and Geotechnical CEO Anne Baxter who stepped down after completing her two-year tenure, hopes to build on what Baxter has achieved.

Five committees make up the management of the association and Brocklesby has been involved with many of them since joining the BDA in 2001. Including the management committee, working groups as well as the being a member of the finance and strategic planning sub-committee.

We have a broad spectrum of members, from multinationals through to one-man-bands, and it can be quite difficult to distinguish the capabilities of each

In addition to promoting the association’s core aims, Brocklesby hopes to spend his tenure continuing to raise the profile and status of the BDA, both to drillers but also to the wider construction sector.

“I’m keen to listen. Listen to our members and listen to the wider sector as a whole. There are a number of organisations and owner/operators that exist outside of the BDA and we need to engage, listen, try to help and bring them along with us,” Brocklesby says.

One key aspect that the new chair wants to continue to promote is the Quality Matters programme. This was boosted when the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) awarded a grant to the association to go out and meet clients and other bodies.

“The grant funding has now ceased,” explains Brocklesby, “but we intend to continue on with it.

“It’s massively beneficial to go out and meet and engage with the organisations that specify our works and employ our members, in spreading the message of best practice and technical standards.”

But’s it not only outside organisations that Brocklesby is keen to engage, he wants to encourage the industry as whole to raise its expectations

“We are striving to elevate what we expect of our members,” he says. “To raise the bar for membership year-on-year.

“It is something that has been knocking around for quite a while and I would like to really push that so that everybody is meeting the ever more challenging expectations we are setting. It comes from what people from outside of our organisation want us to achieve too.”

Part of this listening to organisations outside of the association, has led Brocklesby to help the wider construction industry to understand the drilling sector and its capacity.

“It’s about recognising what good looks like, what individual companies within the BDA can offer in terms of size, capability, training and resources, which will help the client body so they can compare like for like on an even footing,” he says.

“We have a broad spectrum of members, from multinationals through to one-man-bands, and it can be quite difficult to distinguish the capabilities of each.”

The BDA currently has around 130 members and, although represented well by the ground investigation sector, Brocklesby is keen to increase membership by targeting groups that might have thought the BDA wasn’t for them.

I’m keen to listen. Listen to our members and listen to the wider sector as a whole

“Geotechnical processes contractors, the supplier networks, the consultants and specifier bodies are all parties I would be keen to target,” he says. “I want to ensure they are aware of what is going in the sector.

“I’m keen to target the smaller organisations too, and get them to recognise the benefit and value from being a member, explain what we can do and convince them that we are for them too.”

Looking the wider world, what does Brocklesby think the biggest challenges will be during his tenure?

“It has to be Brexit,” he says. “It’s the economic uncertainty that is the biggest challenge. It is affecting all of us in the sector and a real concern at the front end of construction. 

“Procurement will always be a blight on the sector when it focuses on cost, rather than quality, that will always be a challenge.” He believes this is industry wide and can and will improve over time.

However, attracting young people in the drilling sector will always be tricky, Brocklesby believes.

“The nomadic lifestyle of drillers isn’t for everyone,” he explains. “Attracting young recruits and getting qualified staff will always be difficult – the lifestyle is not something that people want to do for a prolonged period of time.”

Attracting young people in to the sector isn’t helped by the lack of funding for apprenticeships as most BDA members sit outside the scope of the CITB Levy, and existing apprenticeships do not meet the Trailblazer criteria set by the government.

“This will always be an issue for the drilling sector,” Brocklesby says. “It’s the availability and support for recouping paid training that is proving quite challenging.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Brocklesby is excited to see new technology and techniques coming along. “These are opportunities, and keeping up with those changes will be interesting to watch and see,” he says.

Speaking of the industry and the BDA, Brocklesby is optimistic: “We’re in a pretty good place and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

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