Taking on the FMB national presidency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is not going to be easy, but Jan Etchells is ready for the challenge.

Jan Etchells FMB National President

The effects of the coronavirus will be felt for some time yet, which is why the next two years are integral for FMB members.

Jan Etchells, elected as National President of the FMB at the 2020 National Annual General Meeting on 18 September, says now is the time for members “not just to bounce back but to thrive”. “We need to support a green recovery, with small to medium-sized (SME) builders doing their bit to ensure we reach our carbon emissions targets. It’s a great opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative home improvements and new builds, building the homes we need and supporting sensible planning reforms that make it easier for SME housebuilders.”

Etchells of Syntonic Kitchen Technicians Limited, who is the former FMB National Vice President, says: “Being a member of the FMB is a badge of quality and a sign that consumers can build with confidence if they pick a Master Builder firm. Being a member of the FMB can enhance your reputation and raise your profile, helping you to win more business. “I’d like to use my presidency to spread awareness of the unlimited expert advice on offer and how we can help protect your business and share the opportunities when joining the Master Builder community.”

The badge of quality helps to counter the negative reputation of “cowboy builders”. Etchells says she is eager to support a licensing system for UK construction to improve the industry. In addition, Etchells wants to raise standards, and better engage members.

Having taken over from Arthur McArdle, Etchells says: “Arthur has been a great inspiration to me with his calm and measured attitude. He is a good man and guided us with the help of the senior management team and the National Board for the past two years through some tricky times, in particular, the last few months with the pandemic. “He is a great listener and I have the utmost respect for him and the way he deals with things. I count him as a good and  supportive friend and I’d like to think that I will pick up where he left off in that we all listen to each other because after all there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”

The first woman president

Etchells differs starkly from all of her predecessors as she is the first woman president of the FMB. It’s a notable fact, but she doesn’t concern herself too much with it. “Despite what Joe Public thinks, the SME building and construction industry truly is one of the most open and inclusive workplaces. In my experience, it is a myth that women are  overlooked but I am open to counter-arguments obviously, I’ve just never found it so myself.”

Etchells jokes that it could just mean that she is “bossy or pushy”. While being a woman has not necessarily impacted upon her career, she is eager for equality and transformation. “To remain relevant and encourage new recruits to construction, we need to ensure construction looks more like society. I am extremely honoured to represent our membership and realise it is a huge responsibility. I would love to help the next generation to choose construction as a career regardless of gender.

“Women of the FMB are the backbone of many of our member companies and certainly we are well represented on the Area Boards, National Board and FMB committees.”