Qualifying the Workforce: Mark Priestman offers three (plus three more) top tips for skills development

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. www.priestmanweb.com

“Mark, I’m only a small business and I feel bombarded with emails and newsletters offering me all sorts of help for my business. But I haven’t got time to read everything.  What would be your three top tips regarding skills development?”

That was a question I received just this week. It would seem rude not to reply, so here goes.

Tip No1: Every CITB registered firm has a CITB Advisor allocated to help with guidance about applying for funding and grants for training and qualifications. If your CITB Advisor isn’t routinely popping in, get on to it today.

Tip No2: CITB is good, but it does not always know about specialist sectors in great detail. To bridge this gap, it funded industry training groups. Ours is the Natural Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG). It is made up of committed folk from the natural stone sector. NSITG is often first to hear about available funding. It also helps steer the development of qualifications and training packages – as it did the Trailblazer apprenticeship. At the very least, ensure you are on the NSITG emailing list.

Tip No3: There is strength in association and our sector’s trade association is Stone Federation GB. Membership brings a valuable opportunity to be party to its committee work. You will probably find several of its committees and forums support your business needs and they will aim to keep you abreast of news that can support the growth of your business.

Bonus Tip: Engage. Attend annual meetings, networking events and forums, and all of a sudden you are plugging-in to the dynamic current of this exciting sector of the construction industry.

Bonus Tip No2: Ensure you are measuring the skills requirements of your business. Have job descriptions in place. Conduct appraisals. Highlight gaps in skills, training and qualifications and formulate a plan to fill those gaps.

Bonus Tip No3: Always go with a training provider who doubles the number of tips you asked for (only kidding!). But seriously, this magazine, this column and my business is all about keeping you informed, about Qualifying the Workforce, as we say. If there are any subjects you’d like me to cover, send me a message using the contacts below the picture of me. 

In future columns I will tell you the latest on apprenticeships, the fee-neutral specialist applied-skills programmes (SAPs) for stone fixing, façade preservation and heritage stonemasonry, on-site NVQ assessment for experienced workers, funding and grants, CSCS cards, taster courses, professional body membership, specific skills for new build and conservation and anything topical that comes up.

Below are some subjects you might want to follow up with me.

  • Specialist Applied-Skills Programmes (SAPs). These are a training route to NVQs. The programmes are fee-neutral and available in Façade Preservation and Stone Fixing. I’d also like to know if you are interested in a SAP for Heritage Stonemasonry (at NVQ level 3).
  • The ending of the industry accreditation* route to CSCS cards means if you want to remain carded you need a qualification, normally an NVQ. Training for these NVQs is available at preferential fee rates for those who hold, or have held, cards through industry accreditation.
  • Achieving an NVQ at work is possible through the on-site assessment (OSAT) route. There are OSATs for a wide range of stonemasonry related activities. They also cover supervisory, heritage, contracts and management roles.

*Footnote: Industry accreditation is often termed ‘grandfather rights’. I didn’t realise it, but that term has a negative or offensive connotation in other walks of life, which is why I have stopped using it.