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!

A wise sage once (almost) said: “A qualified workforce is costly – but never as costly as an uncertified workforce.”

Yet learning is often still encountered as an afterthought or only faced on a needs-must basis. With this in mind I am fairly frequently asked, concerning the commissioning of assessment and training: “What’s in it for me?”

So… Let’s set about providing some answers to that question.

First, there are the authoritative bodies and standards that dictate to the construction industry:

1.         All projects regulated under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations of 2015 are required to have workers with the right skills, knowledge, training and experience. Check out this PDF from the CITB:

2.         Much publically funded projects require that workers hold CSCS Cards appropriate to the work they are carrying out. Check out this link from the Scottish government:

3.         The Construction Leadership Council has adopted the CSCS logo as a means for a construction worker to demonstrate they have met an accepted standard for working on site. See this PDF from the British government site:

4.         CSCS are moving toward a model by 2020 that determines a skilled worker card will only be issued to achievers of an NVQ or an approved apprenticeship. See the CSCS website:

5.         The UKCG is a major association of key principal contractors. To be effective as a sub-contractor on one of its projects contractors must meet its training standards for environmental issues and health & safety. See further information on the UKCG site at:

Then there are commercial considerations:

1.         Indicating the qualifications of your businesses leadership, management, supervisors, operatives and labourers is a fairly common requirement on British tenders – no proved competency tends to mean no success with tenders.

2.         Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) routinely require a declaration of the certified skills of the supplier’s workforce. Since many clients use PQQ service providers, a contractor’s name will be submitted to the client only where skills credentials exist.

3.         Employers who can confirm that their workers are skilled and competent through third-party certification, according to Construction Line, benefit as follows: “[The] use of competent and safe labour in construction work reduces the cost to firms that defects and accidents cause, ultimately leading to greater sales opportunity and increased profitability for your firm.” See this Construction Line PDF:

Additionally, developing skills and training within the business has these positive effects:

1.         The employee observes their employer investing time, resources and money into their development, fostering good will, job satisfaction and loyalty to the business.

2.         Engaged employees are more productive and are more likely to want to enhance their skills set even further.

3.         Through education and learning we share the load of responsibility. An untrained operative who suffers injury will find it very easy to claim damages. An operative with a proven history of employer initiated skills and training development will be better prepared for their work and less likely to suffer harm or cause damage in the first place.

Top-down training, assessment and development is best. This produces a cascade affect and directs checks and balances from a position within your business that can action needed changes in behaviour.

So, yes… qualifying your workforce has a cost. But it is never as costly as not qualifying them!

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.