Training : by Mark Priestman

Mark Priestman writes a column about training in each issue of Natural Stone Specialist magazine.

Mark Priestman has more than 20 years’ experience in the natural stone sector. He plays an active role in the development and delivery of training in this specialist environment. Along with his father, David Priestman, he runs a training consultancy whose mantra is: Qualify the Workforce!

Trailblazer Apprenticeships

Decisions, decisions. Don’t you just hate it when you feel like you’ve not been consulted on something that then impacts upon you? I know I do!

On March 22 I attended the meeting chaired by Michelle Turner of Stone Restoration Services Ltd that was designed to be a collaboration meeting for contractors wishing to have their say about the development of Trailblazer Apprenticeships in stonemasonry and allied disciplines.

Truth is, though, that what our sector really needs if you are a contractor employing banker masons, stone cutters, stone cladders, stone fixers, façade cleaners, façade restorers and heritage masons is… YOU!

The government (as you are perhaps aware) is due to roll out the Trailblazer scheme of apprenticeships nationwide. All businesses that meet the threshold will need to pay government a new levy (for apprentices) on top of the general levy paid by construction contractors to the CITB (for all employees). All businesses will be able to benefit thereafter by receiving part-funding towards the training fees for their apprentices who participate.

This change is now fait accompli. What is not ‘set in stone’ yet is what the Trailblazer Apprenticeships will look like for our sector.

Of course, if you hold back from being part of that conversation, then decisions will be made without you. Therefore, my advice to all of this sector’s contractors is twofold:

1)        Contact Michelle at [email protected] and ask her to invite your participation and

2)        Stick close to the Natural Stone Industry Training Group via [email protected] and help steer the sector in respect to skills related matters.

What about the Specialist Apprenticeship Programmes (SAPs)?

There is a keen desire to keep SAPs going, although it is likely to see a name change since the word ‘apprenticeship’, I believe, is about to undergo registered mark status and will then only be used in connection with Trailblazers.

SAPs are available for all ages, so long as the learner is employed by a CITB-registered company that can mentor them in the workplace. Additionally, the programme boasts excellent funding (in fact, currently funding at its minimum is more than £1,000 higher than the course fee per person and in most cases it is about £3,000 higher!)

My business is proud to participate in the delivery of SAPs organized by CITB and Stone Federation GB. Currently StoneTrain (the Federation’s training arm) is looking at starting a two-year programme in façade preservation. There are also SAPs for stone fixing (and there are plans to split the programme in two so it focuses better on the different skills sets used in external fixing as opposed to interior fixing work). Also advancing through development is a SAP for stone paving. StoneTrain would welcome hearing more from you soon if you would like to register your interest in these SAPs. Email [email protected]

While these programmes span two years, they are designed not to impact on work too much and require an average of only 20 days off-site in total. And each programme includes level 2 NVQ assessment.

Mark Priestman is a Partner at Priestman Associates LLP, a leading façade preservation project consultancy. From stonemasonry and heritage skills through to Site Supervision and Conservation Management, the partnership is trusted by the leading brands of the sector as an NVQ provider for experienced, upskiller and apprentice workers. Mobile: 07876 687212