It is sensible and an important question to ask.
Trustworthiness is what defines professionals more than any other factor. This trust is absolutely imperative - whether we are talking of trust from the general public, regulators or our peers in the plumbing or construction industry.
Be it in your personal life or in your business, the reality is that trust cannot be bought or demanded. Trust must be earned. It is earned over time, through the way in which you as a plumber or your business interact with or behave toward others.
“The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection but credibility. People must be able to trust you.” – Rick Warren
In truth, much more of the value that professional bodies provide us – or in the case of the PIRB – goes unnoticed and this work is easily taken for granted. The true value of a professional body can only really be estimated by considering a world without it. Many of us will remember the time when the PIRB never existed. At large there was nobody for the consumer to turn to when an installation was faulty. More importantly nobody was ever held to account – it was simply the ‘wild west’.
As plumbers we need to keep at the forefront of our minds that not only do we transport the most valuable commodity, water, we contribute to building and maintaining facilities and infrastructure that has to last for generations and that affects the health and the quality of life for so many people. As the operations manager for IOPSA, Steve Brown, says: “Plumbers bring life into a building and take away death.” So, it is safe to say that civilisation as we know it would not exist today without the work of the plumber.
In South Africa, an ever-increasing proportion of the population is living in cities, with consequent demand for infrastructure, whether homes, workplaces or social amenities. They all require infrastructure that includes sanitation and clean water. In the future, this will place even greater demand on the need for sustainable plumbing solutions and the skills and products that are required to deliver them. Couple to this the fact that the fourth industrial revolution is driving rapid change in how professionals go about their business, fundamentally altering the way they work and interact. The increasing pace of technological change presents immediate challenges not just for professionals themselves but also for their businesses. While there is an evident need to adapt, who other than professional bodies such as the PIRB are best suited to manage the process of reshaping the sector for the future?
Professional bodies, certainly in the construction and property maintenance sectors, are today far more important to the future of their professions, to industry and to the welfare of the nation than they have been for some while. In doing our much-needed purpose professional bodies provide better value for the industry, for clients, for the wider profession and, vitally, for the public benefit and the all-important trust.
Professional plumbers play the key role in ensuring that the public interest is served no matter what construction or plumbing maintenance is taking place or wherever it is taking place in the world. The plumbing professional of the future will not only be governed by a duty to make safe and healthy places for people to live, but that of the planet. As such the PIRB continually monitors the challenges faced by the industry, and supports improvements within the industry, within the profession and for the public good. These opportunities and challenges are great. The PIRB as the professional body, along with you the professional plumber, plays a central role in making sure we collectively as an industry are able to take advantage of the opportunities, and also to squarely meet any challenges.
PIRB as an organisation and professional body is far from perfect, and we are the first to admit this. In the same breath, we can safely say that we have come a long way since the inception a decade or more ago of the professional body for plumbers. However, while we have come along way, there remains a way to go to being or showing true professionalism in the industry and continue building on and earning the trust of the public at large.
For us to truly drive professionalism into our industry and be ‘plumbing proud’ we all need to work as a collective, to encourage social responsibility and accountability within our profession. Only through this collective can we create public trust in the industry and the professional service each and every plumber gives. It is through professional bodies like the PIRB that we will achieve this, and more importantly create a culture whereby plumbers feel the importance of belonging to a professional body and see it as a benefit rather than a ‘tax’.
So, while it is a tough challenge to accurately quantify the true social and economic value of a professional body like the PIRB, I hope that this explanation provides a better understanding of where the value lies. More importantly, you should ask yourself, where can you contribute to enhance this value and public trust, though your professional body for plumbers, the Plumbing Industry Registration Board.
Written by Lea Smith, Chairperson of the PIRB