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22 August 2019

Ratcatcher to riches: Championing Professionalism

Your association | PPC96 August 2019

Way back in PPC91 we showed you our ‘strategic plan at a glance’.

Part of BPCA’s strategy is to champion the professionalism of the sector. But what does that mean? What have we done? Where might we go?

In our first strategic storytime, we’re telling the tale of how we continue to increase the professionalism of the pest management sector.

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Once upon a time, there were the ratcatchers. Throughout London and much of Europe, ratcatchers made a living by ridding the streets of vermin.

While it wasn’t a sought-after job, it did demand a little respect. Keeping the rat population under control was crucial in Europe to prevent the spread of disease
and plague.

Though we might recognise some of the tools in the ratcatchers’ armoury (traps, ratting dogs, etc), the Victorians had a few tricks up their sleeves that we wouldn’t see in professional practice today.

Ratcatchers were known for their trickery (hence the term ‘ratcatcher’ still being considered a slur today).

It was commonly believed that ratcatchers would release their captured pests so they could charge again for the work.

As a clever sideline some ratcatchers would sell on or breed rats for bloodsports.

While this unethical practice won’t have been conducted by the entire trade, it’s clear that the negative connotations would tarnish them all.

What’s worse is that those who wanted an ethical practice, free from shady dealings, would be driven out of the market by those willing to make money by any means.

This same problem has occurred in many professions and trades throughout history.

Being professional yourself isn’t always enough; for everyone to demand fair prices for ethical work, to a quality that a client deserves, the professionalism of the whole sector needs to be raised.

A lot of things have happened in our sector since the Victorian ratcatchers. Trading standards and consumer rights drove out a lot of bad practice across many trades.

BPCA members have had a role in driving professionalism for 76 years.

In 1942 we came together to protect the UK’s food stocks in a time of war. We formed the first British conference for pest control in the 60s.

In the 70s we helped create the first European pest management association, recognising that pests respect no borders. In the 80s we formalised training courses for pest controllers and fumigators.

Now, 21st century pest management professionals show few similarities with our Victorian ratcatching cousins.

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Fast forward to 2012

In order to be accepted into BPCA membership, the Association introduced the requirement for all staff responsible for delivering pest management services to be qualified to a minimum of RSPH Level 2 Award in Pest Management.

Many members will remember that the requirement to be on an approved CPD scheme caused many raised eyebrows in its day.

This year it became a criterion that all members must pass an audit to the British and European Standard for Pest Management (BS EN 16636).

Minimum qualification standards, CPD and standardised audits were all brave, sector-leading moves, and the industry has responded well overall. After all, BPCA has 42% more members now than back in 2012.

‘Championing professionalism in pest management’ is about continuing to be brave every day.

We need to continue to define and drive professional excellence. We want to take the lead and bring the entire sector with us.

We need to do what the ratcatchers could not: drive out poor professional practice and show the world the value of our work.

We’re not going to sit and wait for legislators or our clients to demand more of us. BPCA members will lead the way.

BPCA’s strategic goal is to champion professional pest management.

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