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From the organisers of

A Qualified Workforce : Specialist Apprentice Programme

28 November 2014
Mark Priestman explains how the Specialist Apprentice Programme could help you.

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!

Hopefully you are aware that the Stone Federation’s training brand, StoneTrain, offers a grant assisted two-year training course known as the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme. These are managed by Ian Major, who you can contact at [email protected]

My father, David, co-authored three of these programmes, one in façade preservation, one in stone fixing and another in stone paving.

Before this development there had been almost no opportunity for such workers to gain a recognised qualification and very little in the way of an industry approved qualification to develop trainees.

David has now facilitated nearly 50 learners through these programmes. This week we concluded for StoneTrain the training element of the programme for another eight learners who now embark on their assessment for a level 2 NVQ.

Once again I salute their employers for making space in their operations to mentor these workers onsite and send them away for training. Hats off to Dawson’s Stonemasonry, Stone Restoration Services, Stonewest and Szerelmey!

We have another Façade Preservation class in progress and hope to begin another in the next few weeks. To be honest, THERE ARE STILL VACANCIES, so I thought I might dispel a few myths about how the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme works.

1. Does anyone recognise it?

Of course! The specialist apprenticeship programmes in façade preservation, stone fixing and stone paving are all CITB branded programmes administered through the Stone Federation. The programmes teach industry agreed standards and as part of the programme the learner is also assessed for a level 2 NVQ, which, when achieved, gives the worker access to the blue CSCS Skilled Worker card. Remember, too, that a properly carded workforce looks great on tenders and PQQs.

2. Will my employees be absent for large chunks of time?

No! This programme is unlike other training in this regard. Employers are briefed to provide onsite mentoring for their learner, which is then supplemented by approximately 20 days of offsite training over a two-year period with the StoneTrain instructors.

Assessment for the NVQs takes places while the learner is working with their own firm. It is deliberately designed this way, so that the business is not impacted and so that the learner gets the fullest amount of onsite vocational experience.

3. It will cost a fortune though, won’t it?

Again, no! While the course is valued at about £6,000 per learner, if the employer is a CITB registered firm then the grant achievable is between £7,650 and £9,333 per learner. Financially, CITB enrolment is a no brainer.

4. So who would qualify to enrol?

Any employee aged 16-57 currently working as a labourer, trainee or unqualified worker for a stoneworks contractor. To qualify for the Façade Preservation programme, they would need to be mentored by their firm as either a cleaner or restorer. Currently there are two 17-year-olds on the programme and one 50-year-old. Some have been trainees a few months when they start, others have been labouring for many years and are enrolled because they desire formal training and recognition.

5. My candidate is a good worker but they struggle with Maths and English.

That’s okay. StoneTrain is used to working with a variety of people. If required, StoneTrain can signpost learners to assistance with numeracy and literacy skills. It’s important to remember, though, that the learner is not being trained or assessed in these skills but in their workplace activity. If they function normally at work there is no reason why they would struggle on the programme.

A Specialist Apprenticeship Programme can be based anywhere in England where a minimum of six learners can be found.

If you’d like to nominate one or more employee to be enrolled on the Façade Preservation SAP, contact StoneTrain now because time is running out. Likewise, let StoneTrain know if you are interested in the programmes for Stone Fixing or Stone Paving.

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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