Exclusive: ASFP Chair Clive Miles talks the future of fire protection

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Clive Miles, newly appointed Chair of the ASFP, is heralding a focus on excellence, innovation, and addressing workforce concerns

In the historic setting of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, on the 7th of June, the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomed Clive Miles of CLM Fireproofing as its new Chair and celebrated the landmark appointment of Sharon McClure of Avesta Scotland as its first female Vice Chair.

The torch was passed from Chris Miles, marking the end of his commendable two-year term.

Having etched his mark on some of the UK’s most renowned buildings with three decades of experience in delivering passive fire protection solutions, Miles is no stranger to the intricacies of the passive fire protection (PFP) sector.

With a fervour for excellence, Clive’s vision for the ASFP is one that underscores best practices, relentless innovation, and a staunch commitment to people development.

In a candid response to his appointment, Clive Miles articulated the looming challenges on the horizon for the industry, accentuating the seismic shifts brought about by various pressures – from legislative mandates and media scrutiny to the undeniable crunch of skill shortages.

As he put it: “Our response to these challenges must be agile, forward-thinking, and innovative.”

He also highlighted the pressing issue of an ageing workforce in the industry, urging for proactive measures to attract the next generation of professionals.

Advocating for structured training, apprenticeships, and outreach programmes, Miles envisions the ASFP as the gold standard in ‘educational best practice’ for the industry.

IFSJ sat down with Clive Miles to journey through nearly four decades of changes, challenges, and transformation within the PFP sector.

Miles’ accounts, punctuated by his personal experiences, give us an intimate look into the industry’s evolution.

Can you share your industry background and its key milestones?

I have been working in the passive fire protection industry for 38 years. I founded CLM Fireproofing Systems Limited in 1989 and here we are 24 years later.

Key milestones for CLM were being awarded the refurbishment of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

This project demonstrated that we could complete challenging and complex large projects.

We then went on to win the Shard which cemented us as a tall buildings specialist.

Obviously, a more recent key milestone for all of us has been the Grenfell tragedy which continues to change and shape our industry. 

What major changes have you seen in your 30 years?

Three decades sounds like a lifetime.

When I first became involved in the industry, cementitious and mineral fibre sprays were the dominant products used for structural fire protection.

We then saw a massive shift in the 90s towards mineral fibre boards before intumescent coatings really took over as the choice for steel frames.

Firestopping has also developed massively since the 90s, becoming much more complex.

However, the biggest changes I have observed are in attitude towards passive fire protection.

We are in an era where people are beginning to listen to what many of us have been talking about for years –competence and compliance.

There is no longer a drive to the bottom within construction projects, with much greater emphasis now placed on quality.

There is still a long way to go, but at long last things are changing and the attitude towards our industry and how crucial it is in the construction process is changing.

Why did you decide to stand for ASFP Chair?

We have a very straightforward process at the ASFP for the role of Chair and Vice-Chair.

The Vice Chair is voted in by Council and serves for two years in this role before becoming Chair for a further two year term.

I originally stood for Council and then as Vice Chair as I wanted to try and give something back to our industry.

As an association, it is important that we engage with the membership and encourage more of the members to become involved in the activities of the Association.

It’s the best way to grow and improve as an association.

You are succeeding Chris Miles after his two-year term – are there any initiatives from his term that you plan to build upon?

Chris Miles has a very different background to mine, coming from a testing and compliance background rather than contracting.

So, it’s been a useful time working with Chris and understanding his drivers within the industry.

During his tenure we introduced a new CEO to the ASFP from outside of our industry but who had a deep understanding of associations.

This proved extremely successful.

We have also sourced and purchased our own building which is due to open later this year.

The new building has classroom and training facilities, which will perfectly facilitate my plans to introduce and develop a greater emphasis on education to our sector.

What are the main challenges in the industry and how will the ASFP tackle them?

I think that we all recognise that the construction industry stands on the precipice of great change and opportunity; driven by both legislative and technological advancements.

Our sector is particularly affected by this change in the form of:

  • The Building Safety Act, which has given rise to the Golden Thread meaning a greater reliance on technology
  • Increased pressures from legislation, media coverage, insurances, and skill shortages; driving unprecedented transformation in our market.

This means our industry, the ASFP and our members must evolve in new and innovative ways to adapt to this new, ever-changing world.

As an Association I believe we need to focus on three key areas to address the significant change which is coming and maximise the opportunity.

Over the next two years, I will focus on technology, skill shortages, and knowledge sharing.

How can we address the industry’s ageing workforce and skills shortage?

YouGov research shows that only 3% of people between 18-24 searched for a job in construction.

The industry is suffering both from an ageing workforce and a skills shortage.

More needs to be done to attract and retain young fire protection professionals.

The ASFP aims to inspire and secure the next generation of our profession through a combination of apprenticeships, academies, and outreach programmes.

How do you aim to set ASFP as the standard for ‘educational best practice’ in PFP?

Following the Building Safety Act, there has been an increased demand for competent and qualified Fire Safety professionals.

By creating and implementing new ways to train, engage and promote passive fire protection, we can ensure the ASFP becomes the industry benchmark for ‘educational best practice’.

How will you encourage innovation in PFP as Chair? Any initiatives in mind?

Both legislative demands and digital advancements are driving innovation in the construction sector, but also specifically within passive fire protection.

The rise of BIM, the increased reliance on digital recording and even Virtual Reality are changing the way we interact with clients, products, environments, and end users.

The ASFP and our members need to be at the forefront of this digital transformation.

We need to produce guidance around what this digital transformation should look like.

The future of fire protection

The persistent issue of an ageing workforce, paired with a prevalent skills shortage, presents a formidable challenge for the construction and fire protection industry.

With a wealth of seasoned professionals nearing retirement, the industry finds itself at a pivotal juncture.

The repercussions of not addressing this gap are significant, as both expertise and invaluable hands-on experience risk being lost.

More than just a matter of numbers, this deficit underscores the urgency for a rejuvenated focus on attracting fresh talent and investing in their training.

Industry bodies and associations, such as the ASFP, have an instrumental role to play, paving the way for a future where the legacy of current professionals is handed down and built upon by the next generation.

Miles’ insights into the impending challenges—be it the industry’s ageing workforce, the impending technological advancements, or the shifting paradigms of compliance and competence—paint a picture of a sector standing on the cusp of substantial change.

And while Miles charts the course, the introduction of Sharon McClure as the Vice Chair serves as a beacon of the rising diversity and the promise of a fresh perspective in leadership.

With leaders like Miles and McClure at the helm, the ASFP appears poised to lead the sector into a future where safety, competency, and innovation are not just ideals, but ingrained practices.

The implications for the broader fire and safety industry are profound; as standards rise and best practices evolve, the bar is set higher, promising safer, more resilient constructions for all.

As Miles put it: “Our industry, the ASFP and our members must evolve in new and innovative ways to adapt to this new, ever-changing world.”

Sharon McClure

While Clive sets the strategic direction, Sharon McClure, with her vast experience since 2006 and an active role on the ASFP Council, is poised to play an instrumental role in reshaping the PFP landscape.

Her focus? Championing competency, quality, and timely consideration of passive fire and other crucial construction elements.

“The construction industry has come a long way with regards diversity and inclusivity,” says Miles.

“This has been helped in the main by encouraging new young talent into the industry. The increase in diversity and inclusivity has been driven in part by the need for talented people.

“Our industry is no different.”

Speaking on McClure’s appointment, he says: “We are beginning to see some brilliant talent coming up through the ASFP and our membership.

“Sharon is an extremely talented Operations Director at her own company, Avesta Scotland Ltd, which is a contractor member of the ASFP.

“Sharon has been voted onto Council for several continuous years and was unanimously voted by Council to become Vice Chair earlier this year.

!This will mean that Sharon will become Chair of the ASFP in two years’ time.

“This is a positive direction for the Association and will hopefully encourage even greater diversity and engagement from our membership.”

This exclusive article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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