A Qualified Workforce: Accredited

Mark Priestman

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. 07876 687212 [email protected]

Mark Priestman is a Director of a training consultancy whose mantra is: Qualify the Workforce! Here he discusses the CITB National Specialist Accredited Centre.

Back in 2003, the CITB had the good presence of mind to fill a gap in its provision of training by opening its National Specialist Accredited Centre (NSAC). While the CITB focuses on the huge industry that is construction, this unit has been charged with facilitating NVQ assessment for the specialist trades. Our trades.

Why do I find this commendable? Many training providers would never facilitate the specialisms of our sector because, to put it simply, there aren’t enough ‘bums on seats’ to make it financially viable.

NSAC facilitates NVQ qualifications via a network of sector practitioners. Actually, they partner with more than 140 specialist NVQ assessors delivering over 1,000 NVQs a year in a wide range of disciplines – resin flooring, chimney engineering, steeplejacks, lightning conductors, concrete repair, demolition, metal roofing, water jetting, to mention just a few.

Those for the stone industry cover:

  • Façade Preservation
  • Modular Paving
  • Site Supervision
  • Site Management
  • Contracts Management

Another aspect of NSAC’s facilitation by its network of assessors is the ability to deliver NVQs via a route known as On-Site Assessment & Training, or OSAT for short. These NVQs are assessed in the workplace – your workplace – to minimise disruption to your projects.

To complete an NVQ, an assessor will observe operatives at work and ask questions about how the work is completed. The learner builds a portfolio of evidence. The assessor will then record what has been demonstrated and discussed against the standards of the NVQ

Once the assessor has evidence against all the necessary units, they will sign off the trainee’s portfolio and send it off for the NVQ certificate to be claimed, following a quality assurance process.

During the assessment, the assessor arranges meetings to induct the learner and profile them for suitability for the NVQ. The assessor will agree with the learner a plan for their assessment, visit site to observe the learner at work, evidence the learner’s underpinning knowledge of the job and confirm that all of the standards have been reached and that the learner is competent.

The NVQ is a route to applying for the CSCS skills card. A level 2 NVQ allows the holder to apply for a blue, Skilled Worker Card; a level 3 NVQ for the gold CSCS Card; a level 6 for the black Manager’s Card.

Closely collaborating with NSAC is the CITB’s Specialist Applied-Skills Programme (SAP) delivery team. This is a fee-neutral course (for CITB-registered firms) that combines mentoring at work, 20 days off-site on industry-prescribed training, and NVQ assessment. Programmes available range from dealing with asbestos and heritage to piling and roofing. In our sector, three programmes stand out:

  • Façade Preservation
  • Stone Fixing
  • Heritage Stonemasonry

I would be delighted to help if you have questions about this service. Or you can contact the good people at the NSAC themselves via the website at bit.ly/CITB-NSAC.


Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) has issued a reminder that those entering apprenticeships should hold the Apprentice card – not a Labourer card.
CSCS has simplified the application process for Apprentice cards and removed the charge – so they are now free! For those who have not yet completed the apprenticeship enrolment process there is the Provi-sional card (at £36) that can be replaced with an Apprentice card when enrolment has been completed. More details at bit.ly/CSCSapprenticecard.