A successful Installers’ Summit 2023

From November 8th to 10th, Brussels hosted our Installers’ Summit. This event – organised with GCP Europe, the representative of mechanical installers – included meetings, several networking opportunities and a high-level conference in the European Parliament. 

It started with EuropeOn’s board meeting, followed by a welcome dinner with all our members. The next day, our members began with an internal meeting in our offices to engage with potential new members. Then, we all headed to the Installers’ Conference, which we were able to organise at the European Parliament thanks to the support of MEP Sylvie Brunet.

The Installers’ Conference

In the spirit of the European Year of Skills, the first section of the conference focused on skills, with debates and the contribution of insightful speakers. It started with a keynote speech by hostess MEP Ilana Cicurel. She highlighted the importance of vocational education and training, by astutely calling it a “strong vector of employability”. She also emphasised the need to promote VET as a provider of “careers of choice” and get youth interested. Finally, she stressed the necessity to support and incentivise SMEs to better tackle workers and skills shortages. 

After MEP Cicurel, we turned to David Goodhart, journalist and author of Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century (2020, available in English, German, French and Swedish). Goodhart’s stance is to evidence the disproportionate emphasis put on cognitive abilities (“Head”) to the detriment of practical (“Hand”) and caregiving (“Heart”) abilities. In particular, this imbalance has led to disaffection for technical education and careers. This has consequently disrupted the labour market and, more generally, brought about a rising sense of loss of status in society which can fuel populism. It was then high time to hear from a panel of skills experts involved in national associations of electrical and/or mechanical contractors: Helen Yeulet (the BESA, UK), Jan Cromwijk (ISSO, the Netherlands), Andrew Eldred (ECA, England – Northern Ireland – Wales) gathered up around our Skills working group chairman, Pär Lundtröm (Installatörsföretagen, Sweden).

This insightful debate on skills revealed the importance of solutions to fight the current gap between available and required skilled professionals in the installation sectors. Additionally, it was underlined the need to attract talents who can use both AI and traditional tools to encourage the development of innovative installation practices.

The second part of the conference was dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). It saw the contribution of five speakers: Martin Ulbricht, Senior Expert in the Commission’s Unit for Artificial Intelligence Policy Development and Coordination, Thierry Geerts, Country Director of Google Belgium and author of Homo Digitalis: how digitalisation is making us more human, Josh Bone, Director of ELECTRI International (USA), Troels Blicher Danielsen, Administrative Director at Tekniq Arbejdsgiverne (Denmark) and Luc Vercruyssen from KNX Association.

Mr. Ulbricht aimed to demonstrate the EU Commission’s will to strike a balance between legal control of AI and incentives for innovation, a message that was also echoed by MEP Brando Benifei in a recorded speech. Instead, Mr. Geerts pointed out the benefits of digitalisation which is turning everyone into “superwomen and supermen”… provided we get all the necessary digital skills.

Later, Mr. Bone and Mr. Blicher Danielsen presented their associations’ reflections and projects related to AI, with a compelling demo of Mr. Blicher Danielsen’s avatar speaking to the audience. More down-to-earth, Mr. Vercruyssen presented his winning project for the 2023 KNX Hackathon. A project where AI and other digital tools are used to set up energy efficient buildings. 

As conclusive remarks of this segment, our secretary general Julie Beaufils highlighted that contrary to many so-called “Head” activities, jobs in our sector will be hard to automate, as they rely on a very versatile skillset and tailored projects (no two energy renovations are the same). This gives us one more argument to attract young people and career changers into our scope! That being said, she also underlined that electrical contractors should increasingly see AI as a new tool in their arsenal. 

After the conference, the evening continued with the Grand Dinner at the Théâtre du Vaudeville, a picturesque building right inside the Galerie de la Reine. 

EuropeOn’s general assembly and The Wings

During the last day of the Installers’ Summit, we held EuropeOn’s general assembly. Later in the afternoon, we headed to The Wings, a new innovative office building bringing together all the up-to-date installations mastered by our members. There, we had the opportunity to attend a presentation about the site and its cutting-edge systems and participate in a guided tour.

European Installers’ Day

The Installers’ Summit was also the occasion for EuropeOn and GCP Europe to present the first European Installers’ DayThis annual occurrence aims to underline the importance of the installation sectors and all its workers and their contributions to energy and digital transitions. It also aims to showcase the industry’s achievements and cutting-edge practices and to highlight installers’ needs while creating new and productive ways to connect stakeholders working with installation professionals.