Recognising excellence in training provision is an essential step in buoying up the industry

Do you know what a livery company is? Do you know what they do? Do you know their relevance to the construction industry in the 2009?

In my sector, plastering and drylining, I regularly ask that question. Sadly my queries are often met by blank stares which are particularly disappointing when the lack of knowledge comes from a leading contractor, a college lecturer or perhaps a damn good heritage plasterer that I am involved with assessing. So what are the answers?

In all my 25+ years in the construction industry I am never surprised by the lack of joined up thinking. One aspect where it is still surprisingly disjointed is training. This is where the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers can and does help. Since 1501 the company has had a role in supporting plastering and in particular training. The importance of this role has risen and fallen over the centuries. In 1997 the members, most of who are not now drawn from the plastering Industry, formed an industry committee with the specific aim of supporting the plastering and drylining sector.

In 2009 this manifests itself in many ways. They support excellence in workmanship through providing their Great Hall, the largest Livery Hall in London, for the Plaisterers' Trophy Competition run each year by the Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors (FPDC). This event recognises excellence in all aspects of the trade. They help raise industry standards through their associates' scheme, which provides craftsmen with a means of recognition to set them apart as professionals with experience and proven skill and has over 200 members. They support training providers by providing liverymen as mentors. They provide bursaries of £500 each as a funding source of last resort to increase the uptake of training. They also support excellence in training through their training awards and this is where they bring all of the thinking together.

Plaisterers awards

This years Plaisterers' Training Awards was held on 29 October 2009. It was quite a coup for the company when, for the second year running, the awards were presented by the Lord Mayor. Prizes were awarded to colleges and private training providers for their performance and achievement. This year saw the first awarding of an award named the British Gypsum Trophy. It was presented to Stuart Anderson, representing Construction Learning World, who produced the best performance by an Independent Training Provider in Drylining qualifications. The overall best college from the regions was judged to be New College, Nottingham who received the John G Robinson Trophy and £1,700. The final award, the Lifetime Contribution to Training Award went to Arthur Watkins who retired on the grounds of ill health after serving 25 years as a plastering lecturer who now serves the industry as the Registrar of the Associates scheme.

Troika at the Plaisterers awards

The full list of Award Winners can be found on the Plaisterers Web site

The event itself attempts to bring all the stakeholders in training together under one roof to celebrate the achievements of the trainers and trainees. In attendance were many young achievers. From Worldskills 2009 held in Calgary there was Jean Baptiste Bevand the gold medal winner in the Plastering and Drywall Systems competition and Guillaume Suteau the Worldskill Chief Technical expert. From Skillbuild 2009 at South Lanarkshire college the winner and runner up Philip Foulkes and Marc Burton from the Plastering Competition attended. Awards were made to Gareth Davies from Coleg Sir Gar and Jonathan Buckley from Craven College for achieving the best result in this year Advance Craft Award examinations. Also in attendance were representatives of major plastering and drylining contractors, FPDC, CITB, City and Guilds and the UK's leading construction colleges and private training providers.

One initiative that the company is keen to support is Worldskills 2011 which will be held in London at the Excel centre. Heather Bliss Skillbuild's Competition Manager was at the awards to gain support for the new Plastering and Drywall Competition being held November 2009 to January 2010 to select candidates good enough to go forward to train with UkSKills to compete for that next Gold Medal.

So now you know the answers and I hope that you are pleasantly surprised at what 500-year-old company is still doing for the industry it owes its creation to in the very different plastering sector of today.