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Trade associations ‘forgotten sector’ of COVID-19 support

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,


Trade associations have played a vital role supporting industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but many could be under threat due to a lack of financial support, according to the CEO of a UK-based engineering firm.

The UK government relied on trade associations to advise their respective industries in the early stages of the first lockdown. A comprehensive list of associations was published as part of national ‘support for businesses during coronavirus’ activity in early April. More recently, businesses have been advised to contact trade bodies for help in applying for Kickstart Scheme funding.

Colin Findlay, CEO of valve engineering business Seven Glocon Group and chairman of the British Valve and Actuator Association (BVAA), says trade associations stepped up to provide valuable assistance. However, many are facing difficulties of their own having been excluded from much of the financial aid that was offered to businesses, charities and non-profit organisations.

“When businesses were reeling from the sudden and extensive impact of COVID-19 restrictions, many turned to their trade association for guidance,” Findlay explains. “Trade associations worked proactively to ensure their industries’ voices were heard as events unfolded, and government has recently acknowledged the value of simple and transparent communications between trade associations and themselves.”

His views are echoed by BVAA CEO Rob Bartlett who explains that trade associations had to extend their remit during the crisis, so scaling back or furloughing staff was not an option: “Like many trade associations, we act as an emergency service for our members – they come to us when they need immediate advice on urgent matters. We had to evolve our offering fast this year, delivering more services online. At the same time, we had to find the resources and expertise to provide guidance related to COVID-19 and Brexit. As a long established association with a track record of prudence, we’ve been able to shoulder the additional expense and reduced income caused by the pandemic. However, not all trade associations are this fortunate.”

Findlay acknowledges that 2021 will be tough for many organisations, and that budgets will be under pressure. But he urges business leaders not to categorise trade association membership as a discretionary expense: “As we prepare for difficult times ahead – and look forward to an eventual recovery – we need trade associations more than ever. It’s partly about getting good, tailored guidance when you need it most. But it’s also about ensuring strong, cohesive representation of your industry amongst influencers and decision makers. If trade bodies are under-resourced, it’s their wider industries that will suffer.”

Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/special-reports/04122020/trade-associations-forgotten-sector-of-covid-19-support/

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