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A qualified workforce : Get your NVQs here

24 April 2014
The ruinette used for training at West Dean College.

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!

I spent a great day in what I can only describe as a five-star learning experience at West Dean College in deepest, darkest Sussex at Chichester.

West Dean is a well-respected institution. It doesn’t really compete with other stonemasonry colleges but instead delivers three-day masterclasses in a variety of heritage and conservation subjects. Its target market is practitioners, architects, consultants, surveyors and conservation officials. During my visit, Geoff Wallis was leading a class on Repair of Architectural Metalwork, which was fascinating.

The college has a list of courses more specific to our sector, including:

  • Stonemasonry: Conservation of Architectural Detail and Surfaces
  • Structural Repair of Historic Buildings
  • Conservation & Repair of Brick and Flint Masonry
  • Conservation & Repair of Masonry Ruins
  • Masonry Cleaning

My host was Liz Campbell who gave me a tour of the facilities and live teaching taking place on campus. I was very impressed with their Ruinette. It is a heritage stone and brick wall structure about 15m long. It allows the learner to be mentored as they remove and return, repair, restore and conserve elements of the structure, depending on the class being taught. It even houses vegetation so that the ecological issues of restoration and repair can be examined.

Their three-day courses cost £542 plus residence fees, but are well worth it, I’d say. Some learners are studying for the college Diploma in Conservation, which is achieved after completion of 10 of these three-day modules.

You can find out more at

Urgent calls to action!

I want to remind every one that there are at least three areas you need to give close consideration to at the moment to ensure you are not missing out on a great deal – and do let me know if you’d like to participate in any of these:

1. For companies with employees without qualifications who could benefit from industry approved training leading to a level 2 NVQ in the areas of Façade Cleaning, Façade Restoring, Fixer Masonry (including stone, marble and granite applications and aspects such as worktop and floor fixing), and Stone paving installation; or the level 3 in Heritage Stonemasonry. CITB funded programmes are available through StoneTrain that pay the contractor more than the fee for the training. The off-site training is approximately 20 days over two years for most of these programmes. We are hoping to start a course in Stone Fixing very soon.

  1. Do you have experienced workers on site who have not yet achieved an NVQ and need the appropriate CSCS card? They can be assessed while they work to limit project disruption. As I have mentioned in previous columns, I have access to generous discounts for many of our sector’s operatives, heritage workers, supervisors, managers and specialist technicians.
  2. If you are a stone contractor registered with the CITB, the Natural Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG) would welcome your participation in its forum meetings. These meetings help shape the training delivery for the sector and participants get first knowledge of additional funding for their firms’ training needs.

Feel free to keep me posted on your qualification and training thoughts and needs. You can contact me without obligation.

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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