It is hard to believe that we are in the final weeks of 2021. The year has seemingly passed by quickly, with so much happening globally, in the sector and the Institute itself.
We are hopefully in a better position than last year regarding COVID-19. The route out of the pandemic will continue to present challenges for us in our personal and professional lives. However, it is pleasing to see that some signs of 'normal' activity have resumed in the second half of this year.
The British Aggregates Association (BAA) Conference took place in June, and IQ recently hosted 100 senior industry professionals at its Fellows’ Lunch. I believe that we all hope for more examples of life returning to normal, with many of us looking forward to attending next year’s Hillhead Show.
Whilst the pandemic has continued to dominate much of our thinking, I believe there has been real progress made in several critical areas for us as a sector next year and beyond.
When I started my term as President, I reaffirmed my commitment to continue supporting the work to make our industry a healthier and safer place. During 2021, we have seen guidance produced by the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) which has enabled us to embed industry- and HSE-backed support within our organizations, no matter what size they are.
The Strategic Forum for health and safety in the minerals industry also reconvened to review the initial campaigns on eliminating entrapment and workplace pedestrian safety. It has also discussed where the future focus needs to be. There is a combined sense of purpose that as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the focus is back on safety fundamentals and safe working procedures. This requires a renewed emphasis on training, retraining, communicating, engaging, and leadership, so expect to see campaigns to support this in 2022.
The Institute has continued to drive its agenda around education, skills, and competency. We are working in partnership with employers across the sector and supporting organizations to develop more clarity on our standards and educational routes. As the world of work evolves and the skills landscape changes, we need to ensure that we are proactive in developing a skilled workforce to deliver our core products and meet the numerous challenges in sustainability and decarbonization.
The Institute also announced some major news of its own this year, with an agreement in place to transform the National Stone Centre (NSC), in the Derbyshire Dales, into a world-class visitor experience and an internationally significant Centre of Excellence for the quarrying and mineral products industry.
Next year will see the Institute relocate to the NSC. We will draw on both organizations' legacies and charitable objectives. Together, we will build a focus for geology and stone, as well as the rich history of our industry and the impact and opportunities it presents today and in the future. Members will have more opportunities to engage with the project during 2022 and help shape how we take the Institute forwards over the coming years.
Finally, I would like to thank all our volunteers who have contributed to the Institute over the last 12 months; from the regional branches that have continued to operate in challenging circumstances, to those who have contributed to articles, books, and events. Without your support, the Institute would not be able to achieve what it does.
I hope you all have a good break, enjoy the festivities, and return fresh and ready for 2022. Stay safe and healthy.