A Qualified Workforce: by Mark Priestman

Mark Priestman is a Partner at Priestman Associates LLP, a leading fa√Åade 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].


Hands. Face. Space. The government’s slogan for the Covid-19 pandemic. The same slogan could be employed as a tool for anyone embarking on learning, whether that’s training, mentoring or assessment.


Learning requires starting and maintaining progress – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Occasionally I meet learners who are reluctant to engage with the process because they have been doing the job for 30 or 40 years.  We feel their pain. But the bottom line is doing the test and getting the certificate now required to secure the correct skills card for the job we want to carry on earning money at.

“Getting with the programme,” as Hollywood calls it, is the best way to secure your achievement and not suffer interruptions in your access to work.

Trainers do not want to make the process difficult for you. Your many years of experience play out as an advantage for you as they give you a head-start against others who do not have the same experience.

All of us – even your manager... even your trainer – have to achieve certificates, permits and qualifications to stay relevant to their role and authorised to do their job.

With Covid-19 we are encouraged to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly. The same plays out with learning.  We must work through the task list, tick off each ‘to-do’, make time to give the programme we are on undivided attention.


The ostrich approach to learning never helps. Hiding from completing assignments, not turning up for training days or avoiding your assessor won’t magically help you through your programme.

To get the job done we need to respond to the trainer as though they were a guide helping us to reach our destination. Trainers and assessors do not see themselves as inspectors or examiners, but as coaches or guides. They are very much on your side.

In Covid-19 terms, ‘Face’ is a prompt to wear a mask to protect yourself and others. In training, ‘Face’ and the mask might be seen as a filter. To progress in anything we need to filter out distractions. As Roy Castle used to sing: “Dedication is what you need!”

You will find it almost impossible to learn, particularly when distance learning elements are involved, if you fail to filter out time-stealers. 

At work you recognise the need for a programme to get a job completed and the same is true of training.


Take a long soak. Schedule time with friends (over Zoom for now, I guess). Do something you enjoy.

As some wise person of yesteryear told my great-granddad: ‘All work and no play will make Jack (not to mention Pawel, Abigail and Bob) a dull boy (or girl)’. 

To stay safe during this time of lockdown/isolation/quarantine/restriction/bubbling/tiering [circle as appropriate] we have been encouraged to make space. You need space for training, too.

Before taking on a learning programme consider your capacity for it. Is there space for it? Or will all the plates you are currently spinning come crashing down?

If you want the qualification badly enough, consider asking yourself which other plates you can pack away for now to give you the focus to complete and achieve the learning programme.

We’ll talk about elbow greetings and what is a sufficient size food order to qualify for a drink at the pub some other time.