Training and education in the clay and construction industry

Clay Technology magazine
16 Feb 2016

Training and education in the clay and construction industry can be crucial for your professional development. Natalie Daniels finds out how you can raise your profile while still in work. 

Undergraduate degrees, apprenticeship schemes and college may seem like a distant memory to many, but to keep on top of your professional development and stay motivated within your field, learning should never stop. It could be refreshment courses in health and safety, independent reading and learning, or gaining a new certificate or qualification. With the skills shortage on the minds of many in the construction industry, it is more important than ever for employers to retain and develop their staff.

Following the recent UK Construction Market Survey Q4 2015 by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Sally Speed, Future Talent Director said, ‘To tackle the skills shortage problem, the Government must deliver a new skills strategy that will enable industry, unions, and educators to work together and deliver real solutions. Apprenticeships alone will not be enough. Ministers must look to draw a link between education, future careers and skills. Employers need to take the lead in improving skill levels, providing more vocational pathways to work and actively engaging with our country’s schools and colleges.’ 

Holding onto employees in this industry is essential, and continuing professional development could prove crucial over the next year. David Baggaley notes, ‘The heavy clay industry takes professional development very seriously, and holds internal seminars to guide employees through the CPD recording process, actively encouraging employees who have responsibilities under Regulation 8 to undertake continual professional development.’ 

Baggaley believes that this will not only benefit the employee, but the employer too. ‘The benefits to an employer are many, including having proactively thinking staff. In the past, operatives often walked around like horses with blinkers on, stepping over trip hazards and walking past risky processes. The old quality adage comes to mind – ‘right first time.’ All team members should be noticing areas for improvement, thinking about how to do things better and more safely within the various teams to continually improve in the tasks, making them more efficient, safe, and of a higher, more consistent quality.’

Qualifications and courses

In some areas of work, gaining new qualifications is essential to maintaining expertise, such as in health and safety, and in others it is encouraged to keep an employee’s knowledge and skills up-to-date. When looking at the available options for the heavy clay industry, Imogen Harding suggests there is a gap that needs to be filled. ‘The Quarry Managers Certificate is well covered, with successful candidates required to record a minimum of 35 hours of development activity throughout the year, but there is no provision for recording and monitoring an increase in technical knowledge of the heavy clay process. Whether an introduction of CPD is required, or provision of technical workshops, I believe as much effort should be put into the technical side of the industry as is into Quarry Management.’

Most employers are encouraged to ensure staff members can develop personally and professionally within their organisation, to keep them moving up the career ladder. It is always worth enquiring about training or follow-up courses you may be eligible to undertake. Courses to develop within your professional environment, such as management, leadership, problem solving and project management courses are widely available and relevant for many areas from bricklaying to quarry management. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Training and education

There could be an opportunity for the UK to become world leaders in training and education in the field, according to Denis Brosnan, ‘In the USA, universities have abandoned traditional technologies in a stampede to develop high-tech materials and devices. This is unlikely to change when American universities only offer employment to candidates with very strong science backgrounds, but with little or no practical engineering experience. This is today’s academic enterprise in the USA.’ Given this situation, it is worthwhile to ask if the UK and other EU countries have an opportunity to return as the primary supplier to education in heavy clay, refractories, technical ceramics, and glass. ‘This opportunity is magnified by the global ownership of brick and tile plants. Further, the means of delivering information has changed so that distance education, as modified for local needs, could be one of the fastest growing endeavours,’ says Brosnan.


The bigger your network, the better. Make sure you always have up-to-date business cards to hand out. As you advance in the sector, you’ll build a network of professionals you can turn to for the latest industry news, career advice, and new courses and conferences available to broaden your knowledge.

It is essential to share knowledge, assistance and support to develop and progress within your career. Maintaining these links with your wider profession can enhance your effectiveness in your job and career development. It requires time, thought, skill and action, but the rewards can be endless.


Take time to reflect, think about what you want out of your career and what steps can be taken to achieve that. This could mean advancing within your company – moving into a more senior position or making yourself more favourable for a promotion or a new direction. ‘Personally, the need to record CPD encourages active listening and note taking, which allows for significantly more of the content of seminars to be absorbed. When reading magazines, books, websites and journals, taking notes for CPD helps with the retention of relevant work related information. Sharing knowledge with co-workers can be documented as mentoring and helps to disseminate company knowledge throughout the workforce. Giving and receiving toolbox talks becomes interesting and focuses the mind on working safely,’ said Baggaley. Why not set yourself a review date to assess your progress and reflect on your learning from the past 6–12 months?

IOM3 courses

Thinking of attending a course to continue with your progression within professional development? As Harding explains, ‘The courses available through the IOM3 are excellent – a brilliant introduction for anyone who has little to no experience of ceramic products when entering the industry. The level two course teaches a foundation knowledge of the process, which is built on by the more comprehensive level three. An additional bonus of the courses is that they are self-taught, so it encourages delegates to build on and develop their own initiative – a career enhancing skill. Further to this, the diploma and degree level courses are a great next step for anyone wishing to increase their technical knowledge.’

To find out more about any of the courses available, visit