A bigger picture - John Woodward, IDE president, interviewed
By Lindsay Gale01 June 2011
John Woodward is the new president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers and has a global vision for the organisation. Lindsay Gale spoke to him about his hopes for his tenure of office.
It is the season for change at the top of a number of the various demolition associations around the globe.
John Woodward, well known to readers of this magazine (he functions as a judge for our World Demolition Awards and speaks at many European demolition events) has succeeded Terry Quarmby as president of the UK-based Institute of Demolition Engineers.
This organisation is a Charitable Educational Trust and exists to promote and foster the science of demolition engineering.
The IDE's main stated objectives include the promotion of the use of more efficient demolition techniques, the encouragement of safer methods of working and the provision of a qualifying body for the industry.
While the Institute is based in the UK, membership is open to qualified individual demolition professionals anywhere in the world.
So what are John's goals for the organisation during his tenure?
According to John: "There are quite a few areas I'd like the IDE to move forward with. We certainly need enrolled members to move through the qualification process, take the examination and become Associate Members.
"We need them then to progress to the next level of full membership. To do that, they need to produce their portfolio outlining their work history and attend a professional interview after two years of becoming an AMIDE.
"Basically, I want people to come through the ranks of the Institute - that is the first priority."
A global industry
John is keen to see the IDE spread its influence and benefits wide. His second priority, he said, is: "We need to reach out to all parts of the globe, to all the excellent engineers that are out there who are probably not aware of the IDE and what the IDE can offer, and we want them to become members.
"The perception that the IDE is a 'UK only' organisation needs to be changed in the minds of the industry worldwide."
"Plans are now in place to have the IDE examinations translated into the major European languages - German, Spanish, French and Italian. Plans are also in place with David Sinclair for him to develop a US version, based around the different legislation that applies there.
"We have already had around 20 applications from people around the world, with a number of them coming from America, Italy and elsewhere. The idea is to now take that forward, invite more members from these countries and then see if we can build a form of model that other countries can adopt as the numbers grow."
It is not just the main demolition markets of Europe and North America that are the target for this push to develop a full international flavour to the IDE. South America and Australasia are also firmly on the IDE's radar.
According to John: "Funds have been set aside by the IDE that have been earmarked for international development activities that will allow me to further this drive, perhaps travelling to these regions to see what we can develop, using contacts we already have in these regions.
"We plan to attend your event in Amsterdam in November, by which time everything will be in place and we will be able to get the message out there.
"We have got to sell the IDE and the benefits it can offer to individuals worldwide and this perhaps means that we need to be more proactive than we perhaps been in the past."
Currently, membership of the IDE stands at the 350 mark, of which just a handful are from outside the UK, but John has a goal in mind for his term of office: "I would like to see, by the end of my presidency, a UK membership of 500 plus an international membership in the order of a further 250. That, I believe, is an achievable and deliverable target.
"I want to be able to hand over to Steve Jack, who will be my successor, an IDE with a membership of 750 and a true voice in the world demolition industry.
"My predecessors as president have all done a great job to get the IDE to where it now is, but I think I perhaps have come in at a time when the IDE needs to take a major step forward, and I am prepared to take a big one."
This expansion plan will of course require resources, both financial and administrative, to back it up. Concerning this, John said: "We have money in the bank - as a registered charity we need to decide how we spend it.
"We have allocated funds for international development for both my and Steve's terms of office based on a somewhat conservative budget. The business plan is in place."
Devoting the time and effort that will be required to achieve this international target would be a big ask for anyone, and especially for a consultant such as John, who is not a salaried man.
Commitment is the key. "I am a member of a number of institutes and associations, but the IDE is the only one that matters to me. I am 100% dedicated to it because it is the best. I like to meet problem solvers and demolition engineers are exactly that."
With his IDE president's hat on, it is not surprising that John sees untrained labour being one of the major issues facing the current demolition industry.
"Obviously, coming from a consultancy and training background, I am concerned about the use of untrained labour. I am more concerned, however, with prices being driven down by the use of contractors who are not competent and properly trained.
"I want a level playing field for the industry. In the UK, I would like to see clients being made more aware by the Health & Safety Executive of what their responsibilities are.
"Clients have also got to realise that, in my opinion, demolition engineers are the most skilled of all the trades in the construction industry. They have got to value the skills we offer."