A Qualified Workforce: by Mark Priestman

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 / mark@priestmanweb.com

Mark Priestman is a Director of a training consultancy whose mantra is: Qualify the Workforce! Here he offers some guidance on NVQs and CSCS cards.

Qualifying a workforce is accomplished through a range of methods:

  • Training programmes
  • Apprenticeships
  • Mentoring
  • Access to gaining experience
  • Qualifications
  • Continuous professional development (CPD).

Many in the workforce are skilled but don’t have a certificate to authenticate their skills. Without a qualification they can’t get a CSCS skilled worker card and it can be harder to get employment.

I’ve spoken at length previously about apprenticeships and specialist applied skills programmes, but thought I should now address the needs of experienced workers who are as yet uncertificated, perhaps because they never got around to it, or because CSCS cards were not previously required as often as they are now, or because they had a card through grandfather rights that have now been withdrawn.

On-site assessment, otherwise know as OSAT, is a method of assessing experienced workers for their NVQ.

Most of the learning requirement is stripped away and the person has instead to build a portfolio of evidence of their skills, and submit to a site visit and a recorded professional discussion.

What occupational areas are available as NVQs? Well, I can tell you those my own business offers.

For managers, there are Level 6 NVQ diplomas in:

  • Site Management – Building & Civil Engineer
  • Site Management – Conservation
  • Contracts Manager

For supervisory occupations, Level 3 NVQ diplomas in:

  • Occupational Work Supervision
  • Contracting Operations
  • For advanced craftsmen and women, Level 3 NVQ diplomas in:
  • Banker Mason

For heritage skilled workers, Level 3 NVQ diplomas in:

  • Heritage Skills Façade Preservation
  • Heritage Skills Mason

For natural stone and façade preservation operatives, Level 2 NVQ certificates/diplomas in:

  • Façade Cleaner
  • Façade Restorer
  • Façade Cleaner & Restorer
  • Stonemason Banker
  • Stonemason Cladder
  • Stonemason Cutter
  • Stonemason External Fixer
  • Stonemason Internal Fixer
  • Modular Pavement Installer

So, what is involved for the learner and their employer in being on an OSAT NVQ programme?

Generally speaking, assessment is less scary in practice than it is when contemplating it.

Additionally, fees for assessment have generally not risen in recent years to assist with the economy, Covid, Brexit and now the fall out from the war between Russia and Ukraine.

To keep assessment fees down, providers like ourselves are doing more on Zoom and via the telephone, and leaving site visits for the essential observation element of assessment. Additionally, learners (or their employers) are encouraged to upload evidence digitally to shared folders, further streamlining the assessment process.

A candidate will be asked to collect video and photo evidence of their activity at work and provide work diaries and copies of any certificates already achieved related to the NVQ occupation.

Following a desk assessment of all this evidence the assessor will contact the learner and arrange to observe them at work and carry out a recorded discussion.

Once the assessor is satisfied the learner has met the national occupational standards for the NVQ, they will submit a claim, which will result in internal and external quality assurance of the portfolio evidence and the assessor’s claim.

Where successful (and so far all our claims have been) an NVQ certificate is issued by the awarding body and sent to the learner.

On the basis of this NVQ certificate, the individual can apply for the appropriate CSCS card after successfully completing the relevant CSCS touchscreen test. While the card needs renewing every five years, which means another touch-screen test, the NVQ is a qualification that lasts a lifetime.

If you can’t find the right construction NVQ for you, get in touch with me on the phone number or email above and I will be happy to help.