Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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4.2 Trade associations

Trade associations – sometimes called trade bodies and employers’ associations – are organisations funded by businesses operating within a specific industry. Their primary focus is to promote their specific industry and its views to government, other legislative bodies and the general public, to provide support to their member companies, and to foster collaboration between their members with the broader interests of the industry in mind. Their main activities centre on public relations and advertising, but they are also involved in lobbying, education, publishing, running conferences, networking and charitable events, and providing education.

In the UK, there are many trade bodies and associations and you may sometimes see their representatives being interviewed in the media. Some of the best-known UK trade associations include:

  • Association of British Insurers
  • Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
  • UK Finance
  • National Federation of Builders
  • Oil and Gas UK.

As with trade unions, these organisations provide a wide range of services to their members. For example, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) members ‘represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future.’ (ABPI, 2016). The ABPI website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] lists the ways in which the association works with, and on behalf of, its members. As the pharmaceutical industry is research based, the ABPI supports its members by contributing to debates and consultations on areas that include drug safety, animals and research, manufacturing safety, electronic health and others. It works closely with the UK government and the NHS on drugs value, pricing and access.

The ABPI provides a significant amount of careers information for anyone interested in a career in the pharmaceutical industry. It also oversees a patient organisation forum to ensure that the views of organisations that engage with patients using drugs (such as the Teenage Cancer Trust, the Epilepsy Society and the Liver Trust) are taken into account. Finally, it produces information for schools on the pharmaceutical industry and provides a publications library that lists reviews, posters, guidelines and industry information.

For anyone working in the pharmaceutical industry and seeking progression within it, this is a massive resource providing insights into the industry, reflections on the past, thoughts about the future and, through membership, contacts for networking purposes.

The ABPI is just one example of a trade association and many others will provide similar services and benefits. The Trade Association Forum website lists over 100 trade associations with a searchable directory of its members. If you are not sure whether your organisation belongs to a trade association or which trade association this might be, visiting this site would be a good starting point.

Activity 7 Identifying support available from trade associations

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Find out which trade association your organisation belongs to. Investigate the range of services it provides and pick three that you think might help you to understand your sector better. Enter them into Table 11 and state why you think they can help you.

If your organisation does not belong to a trade association, or you don’t know which one it belongs to, visit the Trade Association Forum website to identify the association most appropriate to your industry.

Table 11 Identifying support available from trade associations
Service provided by trade associationPotential use to you in the future
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Comment

Trade associations perform an important function in the economy by bringing different organisations together in a collaborative way, providing them with a voice to represent their interests, and by representing the industry to people outside the industry. By using their research and information, you can gain significant insights into your sector. The examples in Table 12 are taken from the ABPI website mentioned earlier in this section.

Table 12 Suggested support available from trade associations
Service provided by trade associationPotential use to you in the future
Facts and figuresKey facts and figures about the pharmaceutical industry providing an insight into its influence and activities
Academic collaboration, education and skillsShowing how member companies interact with educational institutions in order to develop the skills and expertise of their staff
Corporate social responsibilityDemonstrating how member companies can operate in an ethically responsible way

Trade unions and trade associations, therefore, although they might not be uppermost in your mind when considering how to find out about your sector, represent a very important source of information, advice and support. Both types of organisation have a very specific perspective on the employment world and will approach it from this particular standpoint; so bear this in mind when you research their resources.

Now all that is left for you to complete this week is the first badge quiz.

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