Chair’s blog (July 2020)

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It has been a busy time for many members since the May issue and many colleagues have reported the increased pressure on their time attending Team or Zoom or WebEx meetings. I have to be honest and admit that I am still getting used to the nuances of each system but it is clearly the way forward. Remote meetings and the increase in video conferencing and events is here to stay and makes so much more sense by reducing travel time and our carbon footprint.
With this in mind, the AGS has decided not to hold any scheduled face to face meetings or events for 2020 but I am excited to report that we will be starting Webinars and on-line events from July 2020. Look out for announcements which will be e-mailed and posted on social media within the next couple of weeks. We have also set up Teams groups for all of our Working Parties and hope that this will lead to a more efficient and effective way of collaborating even when face to face meetings return.

Most organisations have now brought back their staff from furlough but it is disappointing, but not surprising, that some organisations have started redundancy consultations reflecting the uncertainty ahead of us.
On more positive notes, the geotechnical and geoenvironmental community seems busy with healthy order books and high tender levels. Both LTC and HS2 appear to be steaming full ahead, at least for the ground investigation and design phases, which directly affects and benefits our industry. The announcement of the release of funding for infrastructure and building projects will also assure a steady workload for many members. The housing market also appears to be improving and is projected to steadily increase to pre-COVID levels early 2021.
The adaptation of our members and their staff to COVID restrictions has been a credit to our sector and reflects the resilience of our members. We have seen dramatic changes in behaviour, innovation from a number of our members and the importance of data is becoming better recognised but still a lot of AGS work to do here. For many, COVID compliance is uncomfortable on many levels but overall we are coping well and meeting the challenge head on.

I reported previously that we had lobbied UKAS to extend or improve their assessment practice and I am pleased to report that this succeeded in UKAS reporting that all assessments including new accreditations would be completed remotely and principally by video. This has enabled our laboratories to maintain accreditations and also in some cases to add to their portfolio.
We have also started to rekindle key AGS initiatives such as Procurement of Ground Investigation, Buried Services and UK Geoscience graduate decline and I will report on their progress in the next issue. I look forward to virtually seeing more of our members in the next few months.

Julian Lovell
Chair of AGS
1st July 2020

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