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November 8, 2021

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Fireside Chat

FIA Fireside Chat: Brett Ennals on the need for mandatory certification within the fire industry

We pick out some of the best bits from the Fire Industry Association’s (FIA) recent fireside chat with Brett Ennals, Managing Director of Cento and Fire and Security jobs.

You can read the full fireside chat with the Brett Ennals here.

Brett Ennals, Founder and Managing Director of Cento and Fire and Security jobs, is an industry professional with over 30 years of experience in the fire and security industry. He now leads a specialist team at Cento, a  recruitment company dedicated to the Fire & Security, Lift & Escalators, Built Environment and Health & Safety industries.

Brett has featured in several articles for IFSEC Global, including:

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

At the end of March 2020 we hit a complete brick wall like most of the world, towards the end of April we started to creep out of it. We have been gradually building since then to where we are now, above pre-covid activity levels. The market has become incredibly busy and is fortunate we have worked right through the whole pandemic. We’ve not really been impacted at all. As I say things slowed for a while and then we came out of it very quickly. Recruitment tends to go into recession quite hard and quick but then tends to be one of the first industries out of the recession as well. So, it was a quick, short, sharp shock and then off we went.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

To be prepared for when the cold wind blows. That was given to me by Dave Bartlett who was very influential in the FIA. When I started Cento, David Bartlett was one of my first clients and he just said the best piece of advice I can ever give you is to be prepared for when the cold wind blows, because the cold wind will blow, that is the one thing that is certain. In any business, you have good times and bad times and you’ve got to be able to ride out the bad times.

What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

Technology. I think the current level of technology in the fire industry has been pretty much the same, there or thereabouts, for a long time and I think new technology is starting to emerge. For example, the Honeywell CLSS system, which is the cloud-based fire alarm management system. I think that’s exciting and I think that’s where fire systems are going. It is the start of a lot of new technology that’s starting to come into the fire industry, which will open things up.

What does the fire industry need?

I think it does need some sort of regulation and certification, without a doubt.  It has been spoken about a lot and has been for as long as I can remember, but as with a lot of things in the industry, no one seems to own the problem of making it mandatory. I do think it will push standards up though. One thing I’ll say is because we’re recruiting the fire industry, the demand for engineers that have got FIA qualifications is on the increase and has been for the past couple of years. In other sectors we work in, for example, the lift industry, an engineer is required to have an NVQ3 in lift servicing, installation, maintenance and so on. They must have it for insurance purposes, in the fire industry you don’t have to have it, so it’s nice to have, however, the clients that we work for are starting to demand it. They are not asking for other qualifications, they’re asking for FIA qualifications and certification. So the FIA’s training programmes are well respected in the industry.

What do you like about the fire industry?

I like the people in the fire industry. I think they are a pretty good bunch and they are all honest and upfront and a nice group of people, without a doubt. Since I’ve moved into the wonderful world of recruitment I have experienced various industries. With other industries, there are different dynamics, but the fire industry has got some good people in it.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 21?

Start selling. I worked for a fire and security business at the age of 21 as an engineer and then I was given an opportunity to do my first sales job. I went into a sales job and failed miserably because I sat by the phone waiting for it to ring and it never rang. So, knowing what I know now, I wish I’d grasped that opportunity and pro-actively sold and then maybe things would have been different.

I tried to be the world’s greatest engineer, I tell everyone at Cento that I was the UK’s best fire alarm engineer for several years, and they all believed me. But I wish I’d moved into sales sooner than I did. That’s no disrespect to engineers but there’s only so far you can go. Everything in the world revolves around selling, whether it be a car or a laptop, a fire alarm or recruitment or whatever it might be, everything is driven by sales.

What motivates you?

Making a difference. Making a difference to people’s lives and people’s businesses. Recruitment gets a bit of a rough ride from time to time, there are horror stories out there, don’t get me wrong but when you get a phone call from someone that you’ve found a job for and they call you to thank you and can’t thank you enough as it means they can get married, they can do this, they can do that, they can buy a house it is very rewarding. We pride ourselves on the fact that we find people that others can’t. So, when we find people for companies that are a good fit, and they are still there many years later it is very satisfying.

I remember having a conversation with one of your members about eight years ago now, I said to him one day I’m going to ring you up in 10 years’ time and ask “how Mike is getting on?” I said, “That’s how confident I am that this guy is going to be successful.” Eight years on and he’s still there, so I’m looking forward to two years-time to make that phone call. That is what makes the difference. There’s a good side to it. If you get it right for both parties, the candidate, and the company, then it’s good.

Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

The reason it’s important to me is that I think it’s the go-to place in the fire industry and I know there are others, but I think it’s the premier industry body in the fire industry and I think it represents standards and disciplines over and above everybody else. I think it’s very important for maintaining that and coming back to what the fire industry needs, the regulation certification side of things, I think the FIA is in the best position to drive that and actually achieve it in the near future.

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