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From the organisers of

A qualified workforce: Auditing training

16 September 2014
Mark Priestman offers advice on training.

Mark Priestman has more than 20 years’ experience in the natural stone sector. He plays an active role in the development and delivery of training in this specialist environment. Along with his father, David Priestman, he runs a training consultancy whose mantra is: Qualify the Workforce!

Just this week I read this poignant exchange between two decision makers within a firm:

Director A: “What if we invest in our people’s training and they leave us?”

Director B: “What if we don’t and they stay!”

Since I started as a training provider I have heard the concerns expressed by Director A repeatedly. It takes a decisive leadership to see the detriment to the firm where training is either held back or stunted.

Sure, in today’s economy there are considerable pressures regarding where the next pound ought to be spent, but as all motorists know, if you don’t have the maintenance carried out the eventual failure will be all the more spectacular. The same applied to a firm’s talent pool. It will evaporate if it is not continually refreshed with training.

Fortunately, talent in our sector seems to be abundant.

But… that presents a further challenge:

How do you distinguish your firm from those of your competitors?

Enter USPs. Unique Selling Points. No, it’s not another loyalty programme from a high street retailer. It’s your assessment of where your firm adds value beyond the service others provide.

It would be good for firms to audit this for themselves and you might want to consider the three broad headings below when you are putting together a measure that can be used in the boardroom, in budgeting for training, and in content for PQQs (pre-qualification questionnaires), tenders and promotional material:


Are the skills at all levels of the business being assessed against job descriptions, so that training and mentoring gaps are identified and programmed for fulfilment? Is this being done at least annually?


Can all the skills be verified through competency qualifications? This is a mainstay of the PQQ and tender. You know you have the best tradespeople and professionals but how do you prove it? Answer: through qualifications such as the NVQ and through each employee having the right CSCS card for their role.


Are the skills in the business that have been recognised with accreditations such as NVQs and CSCS cards highlighted to the market? A constant feature of the PQQ is the statement of accreditations and affiliations with bodies such as trade federations, safety schemes, card schemes, british standards certification and procurement networks.

Ever heard the expression “all dressed up and nowhere to go”?

That could be the result if you take on all the necessary accreditations, training programmes and card schemes but fail to let people know what you have achieved. Remember, once you have accreditation and qualifications in your arsenal, your business offers added value. So shout about it!

And when you are in a position to shout about it, you might like to remind your clients of their responsibility under the CDM Regulations to enlist a workforce that has evidence of its competence.

If the project is for a member of the powerful UKCG (Contractors Group) or is in the public sector, remind them of their commitment to workers having the right CSCS card and emphasise your team’s compliance.

If your project is in the heritage arena, you are in a strong position if you can provide evidence that your employees are Heritage carded and meet the Memorandum of Understanding between the CITB and groups such as English Heritage.

My prescription for a joined up internal programme for benefiting from a qualified workforce is this:

  • Regular appraisals
  • Training to fill gaps and aspirations
  • Accreditations to enhance company profile
  • Declaration of added value in PQQs and tenders etc

If you're gonna get dressed up, make sure you do have somewhere to go!

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. Mobile: 07876 687212



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