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].

NVQs - News of their death has been grossly exaggerated

There have been whispers that funding is being pulled from NVQs and they will soon be a thing of the past. It is true some funding might be removed, but mostly it is not funding that was ever available for on-site assessment by a private assessment provider.

The sort of funding that could disappear relates to college-based qualification review and development.

There is a chance some Heritage NVQs could be affected but NOCN, the awarding body, is lodging an appeal and Stone Federation GB and the Natural Stone Industry Training Group are supporting that appeal.

In my conversations with CITB and NOCN I note a feeling that Chinese Whispers are wrongly assuming this potential removal of funding has something to do with NVQs being killed off or the CITB grant for achievement of an NVQ coming to an end.

I have been assured there remains much life yet in the NVQ yet and the CITB grant remains intact and has a future!

To qualify and certificate your personnel to a nationally recognised standard there are four key options:

  • College diplomas followed by an NVQ to gain a CSCS skilled worker card. The NVQ would normally be taken after the course has been completed if it is full time, or during the course if it is part time and the learner is working with a contractor.
  • Trailblazer apprenticeships. An appropriate apprenticeship is recognised by card issuers such as CSCS.
  • CITB Specialist Applied-Skills Programmes (SAPs) in Stone Fixing, Façade Preservation or Heritage Masonry. Aimed at new starters through to older but uncertified learners, these include NVQ assessment recognised by card issuers.
  • On-site assessment of construction NVQs. This is for those who have worked in the role for at least two years but haven’t yet gained a qualification. This is also CSCS recognised. This route is less about training and more about auditing and assessing a person’s observed and documented skills.

CSCS - The computer says ‘no'

If you’ve been trying to upload applications to CSCS for their skills cards recently you may have hit some snags.

An announcement on the CSCS website stated: “We are experiencing issues with our application service and this has increased card processing times.”

There was a suggestion of several measures in the pipeline to improve the application service and Alan O’Neile, the CSCS Communications Officer, has promised to keep me posted so I can pass on news about them.

Some of you might have had difficulty applying for a red card under NVQ registration or a skilled worker card against some NVQs. In fact, I was alarmed to see half the NVQs my firm offers were not on the system.

One of the NVQs not there was the Level 2 Stone Fixing qualification for interiors. This is new-ish. It is for kitchens, bathrooms and internal flooring and/or walling installers. It’s a growth sector that finds itself increasingly in need of complying with CSCS requirements onsite.

Happily, two days after my call the situation had been addressed and all of the NVQs I was concerned about were included.

Now the CSCS computer says yes.  

Points of order

  • Is it VQ or NVQ or even SVQ? For the sake of clarification, VQ is the generic term for all Vocational Qualifications. These include the NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) and the SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification). ‘NVQ’ and ‘SVQ’ remain named ‘brands’ on current construction VQ qualification standards and certificates. NVQ is perhaps the term most universally understood and reflects a qualification that has been agreed by national standards and for which competency must be evidenced not in classroom or simulated workshop settings but in live occupational work areas.
  • What is a diploma? If you’ve undertaken a diploma in college it is likely to be a College Diploma through an awarding body such as City & Guilds or CSkills Awards. These diplomas are excellent qualifications and indicate effective underpinning learning. But they are not the same as an NVQ Diploma, which is broadly the requirement for a CSCS Skilled Worker Card.
  • What is a trailblazer? Cutting a long story short, it’s a government approved apprenticeship. In a construction subject for it to be CSCS compatible it will either have an NVQ bolted on to the end of it or have been agreed with CSCS to achieve the same outcome as an NVQ.