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Training : Mark Priestman

2 August 2018
Mark Priestman

Mark Priestman writes a column about training in Natural Stone Specialist magazine.

Today, one of the key pillars of good management and supervision is the need to be able to monitor activity by measurable means. Some things are relatively easy to measure, such as the dimensions of an elevation of a building. Other things are nearly impossible to measure.

Training and skills development procurement can be one of those things that is difficult to measure.

I am frequently asked by contractors how they can measure the services they are buying-in. And since I have a bias as a training and assessment provider myself, I prefer to offer the guidance of an independent but authoritative source. Cue the CITB’s Principles of Sound Training.

I have included some here, with the addition of some thoughts of my own (well, it is my column after all!)

CITB: The training and development of workers should be seen as a responsibility of every individual who is in a supervisory position... The ultimate responsibility for training and development within the firm rests with senior management.

My two pennies worth: Best practice should include the implementation of ‘job descriptions’ and ‘annual appraisals’.

The job description sets the scene for what is required of the worker based on company, legislative (both in HASWA and the CDM Regulations of 2015) and project needs (which I’d recommend includes the requirements of bodies such as HSE, CSCS and BuildUK).

The job description informs and populates a company’s Skills Spreadsheet, which in turn flags up expiry dates and absent skills certification for a given worker.

The annual appraisal considers the gap between where the worker is and where they need to be, identifying agreed tools to close that gap, which might include training courses, NVQs, in-house mentoring, reading and CPDs.

CITB: Training and development should be based on an assessment of the performance required of individuals.

My two pennies worth: This is critical. On too many occasions training is selected on the basis of a programme’s title instead of the learning outcomes and how they map where the learner needs to be in their personal development at the end of the process.

CITB: In order to be cost-effective, training should take account of the abilities possessed by trainees before it begins.

My two pennies worth: The aptitude of the worker needs to be considered first. While training should stretch a person, it should also be appropriate to their position in their career. Being stretched too far too soon could demoralise an otherwise valuable member of your team.

If undergoing a vocational qualification (NVQ or SVQ) it is important to remember that during assessment the learner will need to show evidence of their knowledge and performance in the work area they are pursuing the qualification in. That evidence needs to cover a sufficient period of time and relate to their current job role.

CITB: Training and development programmes should be designed to enable individuals to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out work safely and to an agreed and measured level of performance.

My two pennies worth: This is very important. You should always feel free to ask a training organisation for the course summary. It might show the programme won’t progress the learner. It is best to find out ahead of enrolment.

Additionally, some courses are solely theoretical, others solely practical. Your needs might be a balance of the two or a bias away from what is on offer.

You might also want to consider the level of outcome. Will the certificate read: ‘Attendance at’ ‘Awareness of’ ‘Knowledge of’ ‘Proficiency of’ or ‘Competency in’? Labelling matters if you are trying to comply with the CDM Regulations or are seeking a qualification that meets the entry requirements of a card scheme.

CITB: The performance of individuals during their training and development should be monitored, reviewed at intervals and recorded, with any necessary actions taken.

My two pennies worth: This is particularly true of longer term programmes. If they are nationally recognised, such as the CITB’s Specialist Applied Skills Programme (the new name of the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme), then usually programme officers, tutors and assessors issue periodic reports. Where this is the case, it is worth reviewing them and building them into appraisal gaps and agreements.

Most training providers will adapt the emphasis of certain aspects of their programmes to suit the sponsor’s needs for their learners. But they can only do this in-programme when the employer is providing feed-back.

CITB: All training and development should lead to a National Vocational Qualification / Scottish Vocational Qualification (VQ), or a credit towards one where possible.

My two pennies worth: This is a laudable pursuit as skills development is then based on nationally recognised standards and can be used to build up to a full VQ achievement.

I would also add that other nationally recognised programmes could be included here – programmes such as those of MEWP (mobile elevating work platform), IPAF (International Powered Access Federation), NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health), the Accredited First Aid Course and the CITB’s SSP (Site Safety Plus) range of courses.

There are also training courses sponsored by trade bodies, such as the new and recently delivered Stone Industry Professional Practice Course.

Otherwise the training ought to be given some legal status, such as the HSE Certificate of Competency for the use of dichloromethane-based paint strippers. These are effective but their use can be hazardous, which is why it is restricted by law to those operators who hold a Certificate of Competency. And with the level of fines being handed out these days for breaches of health & safety law it is pragmatic to comply.

Informed purchasing is always the best way to avoid disappointment. I hope you will closely scrutinise the CITB’s Principles of Sound Training so you achieve satisfaction from your investment in training.

You can see the CITB Principles of Sound Training at

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].


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