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].

If you want your workforce to commit to improving you have to lead the way.

If the top of your structural pyramid is in some way exempted from skills development it sends out mixed messages, which is counter-productive.

The whole point of training, development and skills is to affect behaviour. Appropriately changed-behaviour results in safer, more productive, compliant and smarter output.

If your business is anything like those I generally meet, you are already well qualified at leadership levels. But those levels should never stop engaging with the learning and development process. Perhaps key is to continue the business appraisal system right up to and including the boardroom.

Your business might be complicated and, as a leader, your role even more complicated and fairly fluid. But start with this basic understanding:

1.         To do my job effectively I need to know what my job is. This is essentially a job description, even if it is constantly evolving for most leaders.

2.         I need to be honest about my current skills levels. Am I performing to best practice in the roles I am responsible for? Would others agree with my self-analysis?

3.         Where there is a miss-match between points 1 and 2, you have identified your skills gap.

Never be afraid of the skills gap. It isn’t a statement of failure. It’s an indication of where to spend your valuable resources to enrich your role and the experience of those working around you.

In fact, tackling a skills gap can be quite the heroic thing to do.

Once you have defined your skills gap you can set to work on bridging it, perhaps through engagement and networking with other professionals, reading, research, training and assessment, business accreditations and continuous professional development.

Join an appropriate professional body – the Chartered Institute of Building, for instance – that offers the right balance of kudos with requirements for both being qualified and staying qualified. It is excellent, too, on briefing communications.

Obtain the right skills card for the job you do. You should not be entering a site as an escorted visitor, for example, but should have access as a leader. Holding the right card for the job will probably help you close another skills gap as you are likely to need the higher, level 6 NVQ in either Contracts Management or Site Management to qualify for it.

Construction leaders should skip this paragraph as it’s aimed at the company HR Manager... Psst, if your leaders are struggling to grasp the importance of commitment to health & safety get them booked on to the CITB Director’s Responsibility Health & Safety course fast. It will properly scare them and a cascade of training is likely to follow.

Engagement with colleagues in the sector is excellent for personal development. If you are a member of a trade body such as Stone Federation GB, engaging with its training, networking and forum opportunities can be useful. Likewise actively supporting the CITB funded but sector steered Natural Stone Industry Training Group.

Being honest about your own personal development will pay dividends in personal satisfaction, enriching your communication skills and maybe even winning more tenders.