Small steps towards the goal. ZOPI after 4 years of activities with Anna Oleksiewicz at the helm

Small steps towards the goal. ZOPI after 4 years of activities with Anna Oleksiewicz at the helm

The Polish Association of Designers and Engineers (ZOPI) was formed above all to protect the interests of these professional groups. Under what circumstances was the organization established?

Before the Association was established, I had the pleasure of working with companies from this sector. They operate on the public market, designing and supervising the most important investments in the country – in road, railway and energy infrastructure. It was impossible not to notice that during the investment process there was a significant disproportion between the position of design and supervision companies and their clients, mainly entities from the public sector. This was mainly manifested in unequal conditions for the implementation of public contracts – the position of the public awarding party was extremely privileged. In my opinion, there has been a kind of turning point – companies have come to the conclusion that they do not want to function this way and, what’s more, that it is impossible to change the system alone, and they have decided to unite within an organization. Of course, thanks and words of appreciation are due to the first 10 member companies – the founders of the Association. They played a key role in the creation and development of ZOPI.

The Association provides assistance to representatives of the design and engineering industry in solving organizational and legal problems of their activities. What issues do members ask about most often?

I would probably define the role of the Association slightly differently today. It is a platform for searching for good organizational and legal solutions that we would like to implement as part of the investment process and a platform for cooperation with the public sector to which we want to present solutions we have developed. ZOPI’s operational activity consists of presenting to our clients (public contracting authorities) ideas we have developed among member companies on how to solve specific problems related to the investment process. Such problems include, for example, contract indexation, problems related to the terms of tenders for the contractor of design and supervision services, or problems related to the acceptance and settlement of our works. These are, of course, just some examples, because there are many more real issues that need to be improved. We try to be active wherever a designer and engineer is needed or may be needed – we are interested in the area of nuclear energy, topics related to the rebuilding of Ukraine and the implementation of key investments such as Central Communications Hub (CPK). We want to support companies operating on the Polish market in their ambitions to implement these important projects.

One of the tasks of ZOPI is to build the prestige and position of designers and engineers, especially among young construction practitioners. How does ZOPI achieve these goals?

We have touched on a very important area. Due to the process of deteriorating prestige of the design and engineering profession over many years, as well as unattractive financial conditions for the implementation of public contracts, we have a huge problem with recruiting staff today. In short, we are dealing with a situation in which the terms of tenders for intellectual services created by contracting entities promote price as the main selection criterion. True that there are non-price criteria in these tenders, but in practice they do not matter – every company meets non-price criteria and competition basically comes down to price. To win an order, companies must offer very low prices, which in turn translates into the level of remuneration they can offer to their employees. Young people not seeing financial prospects in the profession of designer and engineer choose other career paths.

One of our most important goals now is to convince public contracting entities to use realistic non-price criteria that will allow companies to compete in the so-called technical offer and not just price. Such action will, of course, translate into higher prices for those offers that will have an attractive technical component. This will have positive implications both for the awarding party, who will simply have a better quality team to perform the service, and for the industry, which will be able to invest in and develop such teams. Today, these possibilities are limited, although I admit that recently the first tenders consistent with the idea I presented have appeared.

The second edition of the “Designers and Engineers Congress” organized by ZOPI will be held in April. Please tell us a little more about this event.

From our point of view, this will be an important event because we hope to encourage the participation of representatives of the public sector, which is currently undergoing personnel changes related to the change of government. We therefore hope that this will be the first event during which we will exchange views with representatives of individual contracting entities and authorities after these changes.

The program includes general topics regarding the current market situation, as well as more specific topics, such as nuclear energy, issues related to land testing for investments, and digitization of the construction process. One of the topics was selected through an online survey available to all market participants. As a result of this vote, the debate will be devoted to the inadequacy of earnings in the industry in relation to responsibility, and we will talk about the impact of this phenomenon on the development of the intellectual services sector, in particular in the context of recruiting young staff.

You were appointed to the position of President in June 2023, so this is only the beginning of your three-year term. What changes would you like to make in the Association during this time?

Our organization adapts very flexibly to needs and the surrounding market, changes through of evolution and not revolution, so I do not believe that any significant changes are necessary. Rather, we care about implementing the course of action we have chosen so far. What is important is the fact that the organization is constantly developing. We are acquiring new members who represent various areas of activity. We have design and supervision companies, surveying and geological companies as members. Each of these areas requires our attention and specific actions, we will certainly have no shortage of work throughout my term of office.

You are the only woman in the current Management Board and Council of the Association. How does cooperation with your colleagues work?

I would be lying if I said that this situation bothers me. But seriously – I’m dealing with professionals. The members of the ZOPI Council and Management Board are people with extensive experience, knowledge and market intuition. They support me and I can fully rely on them. Of course, they have different views and ideas, but what is important – we can look for the best solutions through this diversity. Working with them gives me great satisfaction and I feel that there is satisfaction on both sides. This composition of the Council and Management Board was established last year and in my opinion we operate like a well-oiled machine. I believe that we can achieve a lot to make the position of designers and engineers more valued.

Anna Oleksiewicz – President of the ZOPI Management Board, Managing Partner at HOOGELLS Oleksiewicz sp.k.

Leader of legal practice in the infrastructure field in which she has gained professional experience providing counsel during the performance of key investments for the Polish infrastructure sector. For several years she has been developing the operations of ZOPI and, as part of her legal practice, supports contractors in the preparation, performance and settlement of public and private investments.

Last Updated on April 8, 2024 by Anastazja Lach