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A qualified workforce: by Mark Priestman

18 November 2018
Mark Priestman

Mark Priestman provides training in the stone industry and writes a regular column on the subject in Natural Stone Specialist magazine.

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!

The vocabulary of the training and development sector can be confusing, so by way of a personal test, I have devised the little quiz at the bottom of this page. You have to match the word with its correct definition.

I have put the correct matches at the bottom for you to check your answers, but try to come up with your own answers before checking.

Some of these definitions might appear to apply to more than one word. Yet the correct answer displays a subtle change that will effect an operative’s credentials and an employer’s claim of having undertaken due diligence on work being carried out by an engaged workforce.

We could find ourselves in trouble, for example, if we claim to hold a skill when in fact we have simply undertaken a half-day knowledge-based training course. 

And we could be underselling ourselves if we say we are trained when in the eyes of the hearer that simply means we’ve been given some knowledge, when in fact we can also display competency, maybe even proficiency.

Likewise, someone may hold a qualification, but unless you know whether the qualification is a test of knowledge, ability, or both, you might mistake how their qualification can be used by your business.

It’s good to have this straight before embarking upon NVQ (or similar) assessments, training programmes, accreditations and so on.

There is even a difference to be understood between classroom manifestation of skills and skills observed on a live work site.

Why is any of this a concern? One reason is because competency is a requirement of legislation. But it is also of concern because selecting the correct people for your contracts is what keeps a project safe, the work to a high standard and the customer returning to your front door!

Post-Script: Winning tenders is quite often about the skills credentials of those carrying out the work. A useful tool in your tendering armoury might be the Pye Tait Consulting / CITB Report into Competence in Construction, which you can download from the Health & Safety Executive website at:

Match each word (numbered) with its correct definition (lettered):

1.   Skill
2.   Competency
3.   Proficiency
4.   Trained
5.   Mentored
6.   Assessed
7.   Verified
8.   Audited
9.   Carded    
10. Qualified 

A)        To be guided in-situ by a work colleague
B)        Ability to display expertise
C)        Ability to do something well
D)        Undergone a course of education
E)        Ability to do something successfully or efficiently
F)        To be evaluated undertaking a task
G)        Inspected and checked
H)        Confirmed as true and accurate
K)        An officially recognised achievement
L)        Holding a credential

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. [email protected]


The correct answers to the quiz: 1-C; 2-E; 3-B; 4-D; 5-A; 6-F; 7-H; 8-G; 9L; 10-K


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