This year GQA Qualifications celebrates twenty years of trading.  As part of the activities to mark the event is a series of interviews with the directors of the organisation. Here we talk to Justin Ratcliffe.

What does being a Director of GQA mean to you?

It’s a huge honour to serve the organisation, and I’ve been doing so for the last eighteen years. To be part of GQA’s exciting journey from its initial offering of seven qualifications to its current range of over 120 is simply brilliant. It’s very gratifying to see these qualifications now being delivered by over 100 GQA centres. Down the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of some very strong boards that have worked with great synergy to support the excellent CEO and his team.

What do you think are the strengths of GQA?

Without a doubt the main strength of GQA is its outstanding team and its passion to raise standards and competency. GQA only involves itself with industries that its staff have significant experience of, which I feel is key to its success. From speaking to GQA’s centres at annual conferences and events, it’s clear the incredible support they receive. It’s been fascinating and rewarding to see how GQA has developed relationships with these centres, and its agility in quickly developing new sector-specific required qualifications.

Another key strength is GQA’s ability to create bespoke qualifications aimed at employers who wish to be able to offer their staff and customers undertaking very specific roles the opportunity to work towards a qualification where one doesn’t already exist.

What does your experience bring to the table?

I’ve worked across a range of blue chip companies before heading up the Council for Aluminium in Building (CAB) for 19 years. I’m passionate about GQA getting its strong messaging out into the marketplace, and like a typical marketeer I’m often pushing for an increase in marketing spend!

What changes have you seen in GQA over the past twenty years you’d like to highlight?

I believe it’s essential for the board to give strong, strategic direction, but equally important to allow our excellent CEO a high degree of flexibility in driving the organisation forward. Over the years we have seen Mick Clayton expertly carry GQA through a period of continuous growth. Having worked on developing a number of new qualifications on behalf of two trade associations has given me fantastic insight into how the organisation works and what makes it tick.

How important do you feel qualifications and training are?

Vital! Qualifications are a standard against which everyone can be benchmarked equally. A key industry phrase is ‘increasing competency’, and I’ve never believed this would only happen through courses based purely on attendance. There needs to be a test of understanding and knowledge gains.

Government is using powers within the Building Safety Bill to make regulations regarding competence.  These regulations will impose requirements on anyone carrying out any design or building work to be competent for their roles.be a stark reminder to employers that not only qualifications but also ongoing training are not simply optional but are business critical.

As a board member I try to practise what I preach, and my new trade body, The Balustrade and Balcony Suppliers and Installers Association (BABSI) is starting to develop three one-day essential knowledge courses leading to a GQA/BABSI skills card in addition to a new NVQ Level 2 in Balustrading and Railings. This is a great example of GQA’s ability to create bespoke qualifications. Previously, I worked with the CAB training committee to develop a curtain walling installers leading to the award of a CAB curtain wall installers CSCS card.

Where do you see GQA heading in the future?

GQA will continue to work closely with the sectors in which it operates, and together with its expanding network of centres will develop further qualifications to address industry needs not only for the immediate future but for many years ahead.

GQA has developed some exciting initiatives over the last twenty years, none more so than that of Building Our Skills, which has garnered far-reaching support across our sector. With its growing network of training centres across the UK, I predict that Building Our Skills will be one of the organisation’s most enduring legacies. With an ageing workforce we all have a duty to get behind the initiative, and each give our time to talk to schools and colleges about the exciting opportunities our great industry offers.

More information on GQA is available at www.gqaqualifications.com