GQA Qualifications Blog

Friday 19 August 2016

Date Set! The count down begins to Master Fitter Challenge 2017

Over three events The FIT Show has given away £30,000 in prize money and many times that value in terms of bragging rights to the window, door and conservatory industry’s best installers. The challenges have become tougher – this year’s finals were proclaimed to set new parameters in terms of sheer physical hard work and required skills – and the competition sets grander, and now the countdown to the 2017 Master Fitter Challenge begins.

Next year’s event will take place for the first time at the world-class National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, and is expected to attract thousands more visitors from all over the UK with many more travelling from overseas. Thus The FIT Show and the Master Fitter Challenge will greet a huge audience with a brand new competition Pavilion and six finalists undertaking new challenges.

“The industry has moved on,” said Mick Clayton, CEO of GQA , who organise the Master Fitter Challenge on behalf of The FIT Show, “and we have to reflect the products and trends that will face the market in 2017 and beyond. The skills displayed this year amongst the six finalists were excellent and it was a master-class in just how windows, doors and roofs should be installed. We expect even higher skills to be shown at the NEC.”

For 2017 a number of new challenges are being considered including aluminium frames, reflecting the continued boom in sales of aluminium windows, bi-folding and sliding doors, whilst the Master Fitter Challenge technical team is looking at including a lantern roof to set the bar higher once again. These are in addition to the regular challenges including PVC-U windows and composite doors with the full programme to be announced later in the year.

“The Master Fitter Challenge is more popular than ever,” said Paul Godwin, for The FIT Show, “and we want more entrants than ever. The prize money stays at £10,000 but the kudos of adding the MFC winner’s logo on van-sides and brochures is worth a great deal more. The passion past winners’ have shown when they collect their trophies has been fantastic. They are real, committed professionals.”

Entries are being welcomed early to ensure plenty of time is allowed for the process of qualifying, which includes in depth interviews and site visits by GQA-MFC assessors, before determining the final six to compete at the NEC for the title of Master Fitter 2017.

Questions about entry can be directed to GQA-MFC, at or telephone 0114 272 0033

The FIT Show takes place in Halls, 6, 7 & 8 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) 23-25 May 2017. For further information go to

Wednesday 22 June 2016

If a job’s worth doing….

Leading industry installation company Job Worth Doing certainly believes in doing things the right way.  The company which engages over 120 teams of surveyors and installers on an annual basis to fulfil its requirements has commenced a programme of training and qualification to enable it to ‘grow its own’ in the future.
Kevin Bowles General Operations Manager takes up the story “Our requirement for installers keeps growing and earlier in the year when we had a particular shortfall I contacted Chase Taylor Installer Resourcing”.
“We recognised that we needed to find a solution which would fill the increasing skills gap we were seeing in the industry.  We had tried various initiatives in the past – holding open days on a regional basis, in the evenings and at weekends and had simply not had any response”.
“Director Paul Lindsay was able to help us out with our needs, but more importantly alongside that introduced us to their partner GQA Qualifications who have been writing qualifications for and with the window industry for over 25 years”.
“Why is this so important?  Simply this, I had been thinking about a young person’s training model for some time and working with Paul and GQA helped me to come to a landing on it and made me determined to make it happen”.
“I wanted to find a way of helping and encouraging young people to enter the window and door industry, but to have a chance to achieve more than being trainee surveyors and installers; I wanted them to have a genuine and transparent career path which they could see and follow”.
“Qualifications is a key part of the process and working with GQA ticked a massive box for me.  The second issue was the provision of practical training facilities and I was delighted that the company had the same vision as myself”.
 “Working with Chase Taylor Installer Resourcing is great in terms of delivering surveyors and installers to us in the here and now; but our needs are always going to be greater than what we can get from the existing labour pool, and ‘growing our own’ is the surest way of securing our ability to meet the needs of our company business plan on a long term sustainable basis”.
“As someone who had undertaken a true apprenticeship when I was younger I understood the need to provide proper knowledge and education if we were going to bring people into the industry and keep them here”.
“So our plan was developed to build proper hands on practical and relevant training pods.  We built the first one at our Crawley depot and already have plans to build a further eleven”.
“It is a massive commitment on our part, the sheer cost of building the facilities in our depots alone is significant, but add to that the cost of the 44 apprenticeships we have created to get the ball rolling – and these are fully employed young people on a real wage to encourage them to feel that they are genuinely a part of our team”.
“In my opinion it is the only way to get young people into the sector – give them a proper training programme, pay them the rate for the job, and show them a true career path to which they can aspire”.
“My job has been really helped by our partnership with Chase Taylor Installer Resourcing and GQA.  They have helped us significantly and we are delighted to have the programme up and running as something which can support us, but also support the idea that bringing young people into the industry is achievable and can deliver tangible business results”.
For more information on Chase Taylor Installer Resourcing

Wednesday 1 June 2016

GQA Welcome Back Familiar Face

GQA are delighted to welcome back Martin Sadler to the Technical Team here at GQA.


Martin was part of the EV team with GQA prior to leaving to take up a full-time position in the public sector around 3 and half years ago. Whilst moving out of the glass and related industries, Martin’s new role saw him continue in accreditation and qualifications, looking after the quality of training delivery, records and associated course documentation, and trainer development


Martin, who was also previously Training Manager at Building Envelope specialists, Schueco, has over 25 years of experience in training, development and assessment as a trainer, training manager, assessor, internal verifier and external verifier and joins us in the position of Technical Officer and External Quality Advisor (EQA). He joins the existing team on supporting and advising the GQA network on delivery of our qualifications to a high standard.  This will involve Martin taking on responsibility for external quality assurance of a number of Approved Centres, primarily in the South of England. Martin will also be heavily involved in the development of supporting material for centres, including putting together a series of CPD events for centres which will help them with both assessment and internal verification and also with industry and technical knowledge.


On his appointment, Martin said, “It’s great to be back under the #BigGreenQ banner, with the opportunity to get back into the fenestration and construction industries that I have spent most of my working life. Having been involved for over 25 years in training on a range of subjects from health and safety to solar panel installation and from effective assessment practices to building regulations, I will be able to pull on this experience to be able to help centres to develop by putting on CPD events in these areas.  I am looking to put together some really interesting sessions, some of which will be live events, some will be webinars and also developing resources to help centres where necessary”


Sean Hayes GQA Technical Manager said” I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Martin again, he will bring a fresh pair of eyes to the business and his skillset will complement that of others within the team. After a couple of weeks’ relatively gentle reintroduction we have some projects in mind for Martin to get his teeth into”


GQA CEO, Mick Clayton, said of the Martin’s appointment, “I’m really pleased that we had the opportunity to bring Martin back into the team, he has a wealth of experience in our core industries, and he has remained a believer in what we are trying to achieve here at GQA. He will undoubtedly add to the skills and experience we already have within the Technical Team and I look forward to him beginning work with our network of centres”


Tuesday 10 May 2016

Let me just qualify something....

Let me just qualify something…..68% of the industry believes we have a problem attracting young talent to the industry

86% believe that employers offering more training and qualifications would help to attract young talent, whilst 96% believe that better qualified employees can add value to a business. At the same time only 23% are aware that there are over 25 industry specific qualifications already available covering everything from basic industry knowledge to fa├žade technology, from fabrication to warehousing, and from surveying to installation.

These are the headlines from a survey carried out at the FIT Show on behalf of GQA, our industry’s qualifications awarding body; CEO Mick Clayton who commissioned the survey digs deeper into the findings.

An inability to attract young people is not a problem exclusive to the fenestration industry, but it does appear to be more pronounced than in some others.  The population is changing in every regard, and what might have seemed a really attractive industry to previous generations is now having to compete with other more ‘sexy’ offerings which fuel the imagination of our younger population more readily.

It is not to say that the industry is not attracting young talent at all to what remains a really fantastic career path – you only have to look at the competitors in the Master Fitter Challenge which we ran at the FIT Show to see that there is still a real energy amongst the young for our industry.  There are just not enough of them.

I have been thinking this for quite some time, and it is why as GQA we are in discussions with regards to investment in learning materials and physical training facilities – learning pods – to support the work of the 70 centres throughout the UK who deliver GQA qualifications.  We want to make learning and qualifications hands on and meaningful.

I also want to make the point that learning and the take up of qualifications and other MTC solutions are already very much on the increase.

However, we cannot escape the fact that there is an issue, and it was not a surprise to me at all that 68% of those people who were asked the question ‘Do you think the industry has a potential problem with not enough young people coming into it to safeguard its future’ said yes.

I was more surprised – pleasantly so – that 86% of the same people believed that if employers offered more training and access to qualifications then the sector may well appear more attractive to those just beginning their careers.

I take huge encouragement from this; as I mentioned earlier we are seeing an increase in the uptake of qualifications and to know that this is the way the industry is thinking is really positive.  There are over 25 industry specific qualifications already in existence, and these are delivered through 70 approved centres covering the entirety of the United Kingdom.  It was disappointing to find that less than a quarter of the industry was aware of this and so it is a message we will continue to reinforce going forward.  If employers want learning and qualifications for their staff they can access it immediately, the infrastructure is already in place.

The biggest number from the survey was that 96% of employers believe that better qualified staff can add value to a business.  You might think that this is a classic ‘no-brainer’, but the fact is that this percentage represents a big shift in industry mind-set, and my gut tells me that if you had asked that question five years ago you would have got a very different response.

It is great that employers are thinking this way and understand that better qualified staff are better able to do their job, are better able to offer high quality products and service consistently, and as a direct consequence can contribute to a healthier bottom line for their employer.

This survey shows an emphatic understanding of this, what we need to do now is to get the message out to all within the industry that an infrastructure for qualifications and learning already exists, and to support them to use this to entice more young people into our industry and away from others.

Mick Clayton is CEO of GQA Qualifications @gqaquals #BigGreenQ

The survey was carried out by The Independent Ratings Company and the results are drawn from 386 fully completed questionnaires.

Friday 29 April 2016

A thoroughly modern challenge

Mick Clayton CEO of GQA Qualifications who managed the 2016 Master Fitter Challenge at the FIT Show tells us that it was the toughest challenge yet but was entirely representative of current industry product trends.
It is fair to say that the 3rd Master Fitter Challenge was the toughest yet, but in my view it was also the best yet.  The products which the six finalists had to install - a Truedor Composite Door, a Liniar flush-sash window, and a Supalite tiled roof – are very much modern products, entirely representative of current industry product trends, and so it was great that they made up the ‘challenge’.
The Road to the final
To get to the final the installers had had to get through two earlier stages, the first stage was a telephone interview consisting of a number of technical questions, and the individuals hitting the required pass mark of 75% went through to the next stage.
This was a site visit by one of the GQA assessment team to observe their fitting skills and techniques which were recorded and photographed. The observation reports were checked and, with all names and identifying Company logos removed, an independent panel consisting of Chris Mayne (FENSA), John Ogilvie (Network Veka) and Paul Garforth (Liniar Windows), under the watchful eye of Sean Hayes and Mick Clayton from GQA, confirmed the six finalists who would compete live at Telford.
These 6 were Arron Clegg (Masterfitter Windows), Craig Hanson (Pennine Windows), Duane James (Job Worth Doing), Terry Jones (The Window Company), David Keates (DK Windows) and David Shaw (Shaw Home Improvements). The competition was coordinated by Sean Hayes from GQA, the assessment team and process were managed by Andy Carrington (GQA) and Dave Mechem (RISA), with Assessors, Gary Robertson (West Suffolk College), Lee Harland (IPS International), Simon Smith (PM Training) and Steve Hill (The Vocational College).
The final
This years’ competition was held in the atrium meaning that all visitors to the FIT Show had the opportunity to observe the challenge and see the finalists in action. For the finalists themselves it represented not only a technical challenge, but a challenge too to perform to their highest levels whilst being watched by crowds of industry peers and of course the challenge assessors.
It was a point not lost on MFC Assessment Team Manager Sean Hayes “I was very impressed by the way the competitors conducted themselves; although all Installers are watched by customers on a daily basis it must have been rather unusual to have hundreds of spectators, including some who had entered the competition but not made it to the final, watching their every move”.
On day one, David Shaw, Duane James and Terry Jones completed their challenge, with Arron Clegg, Craig Hanson and David Keates competing on day two. It is fair to say that all of the Installers were out of their comfort zone with the roof challenge, but all showed good skills and determination in installing an unfamiliar product in testing circumstances.
All of the Installers and their partners started with the roof, moving on to the window and door later in the day, with the fault finding task completed as the last part of the competition. The Assessors were working to a very detailed assessment scoring process; they worked well as a team with all candidates being observed by at least 2 different Assessors with Andy and Dave on hand to answer any queries and ensure a consistent approach to assessment. 
The assessment records were scrutinised and verified with the eventual results kept secret from all but those in a “need to know” position until Paul Godwin for FIT Show, announced the outcome at the spectacular Gala Dinner on the evening of day two.
So how were the winners decided?
Mick Clayton takes up the story once again - This was definitely a tougher final than in 2013 and 2014, there was some real skill and determination displayed by all, it didn’t matter what we threw at them they put everything into the task.
Selecting a winner is always difficult in a competition such as this where everyone puts that amount of effort in, that’s why we have an objective scoring system and a range of assessors so that it is not down to opinion; everyone, from finalists to assessors should be proud of themselves.
Who is the 2016 Master Fitter Challenge Winner
The winners were announced at the spectacular gala dinner on the evening of day two of the FIT Show, 3rd was Dave Keates from DK Windows, 2nd Arron Clegg from Master Fitter Windows, and the winner of the overall challenge was Craig Hanson of Pennine Windows. Craig also picked up the three individual sponsor’s awards by scoring highest in each of the individual installation tasks.
The prize money of £5,000, £3,000 and £2,000 for 1st 2nd and 3rd was very well received and Craig was also presented with a very handsome (and heavy!) Master Fitter Challenge winner trophy.

What the winner said
I cannot thank the FIT Show and GQA enough for giving me the biggest moment of my career. I could not have done it without the qualifications I have gained over the past few years.
It’s been an amazing year what with getting married, and then to compete in Telford and to win all the awards is just amazing.
I thought that the final this year was very competitive, we could really show our skills; it was hard work, as always, up against the best in the industry in front of all the people and the judges making it a day to remember.
It’s always an honour to represent our industry and I can’t wait until next year to come and compete again; I can’t wait to see what we will be doing then.
And so to 2017
This years’ competition will be fully reviewed taking in all the feedback received to ensure that the event is improved upon again for 2017 and that the fitting challenge represents the latest products in the industry once again.
Early indications are that there is already a healthy interest from installers wanting to take part and GQA is already taking expressions of interest.
For more information @GQAquals #BigGreenQ 0114 272 0033
What others involved said:
Dave Shaw of Shaw Home Improvement, Day 1 finalist, said “I would just like to say thank you to everyone involved in the Masterfitter challenge. It was a great experience for me and Nathan. You guys from the GQA did a brilliant job and the advice and guidance on the days leading up to and on the day of the competition”
 2nd placed Arron Clegg, of Master Fitter Windows said I was humbled to have made the final 6 this year, and even more so to finish in the top three. This was my 3rd MFC and I’ve managed to bag each of the 3 winning positions; I will never be the fastest and this competition certainly put the pressure on in terms of time. The GQA team must have found it difficult to manage the tight footprint we were all given and hats off to the assessors in managing that process alone. I thoroughly enjoyed it, focused on my change in career direction and know what position I need to aim for in the 2017 competition.
 Tim Warnock Senior Workplace Learning Co-ordinator from West Suffolk College said “Although the FIT show and the competition were hard work it really is an enjoyable few days with some cracking people”
Jo Taylor, Head of Construction from IPS International said “The layout of the installation pods was excellent this year and enabled people visiting to see ALL installations in one area”.
Katie Thornton from the Window Company, (Employer of Terry and Rob Jones) said “Terry and Rob are a tad disappointed but they are still very pleased to have been finalists’ full stop.  We are all very proud of them and they know that. I hope to be able to attend the event myself next year”
Dave Mechem of RISA said “Having been involved as part of the assessment team for the first time this year, I now appreciate the work that goes into the organisation and assessment of the whole thing”
Simon Smith of PM Training said “We put on a good, true and fair show which was challenging for Installers but that’s the idea”

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Axia Solutions and Apprenticeships

GQA Approved Centre, Axia Solutions is an Ofsted Grade 1 training provider, based in Stoke on Trent and ranked as outstanding by inspectors. Operating independently, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Newcastle-under-Lyme College, delivering a range of vocational training programmes, including print qualifications, designed to meet the demands of learners and employers. With their college links, Axia are now able to offer a much broader range of programmes and qualifications.

At their last Print EQA visit, Sean Hayes External Quality Assurer said “Axia’s whole approach is focused on quality and ensuring candidates and employers are given a first class service, well done to all involved.”

Working with Employees

Axia works with a range of employees in the North West, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire to fulfill their training needs, delivering Apprenticeships, vocational qualifications and Maths and English qualifications.  A recent success, which Axia is delighted to announce, is the achievement  of the Local Enterprise Apprenticeship Recognition Award  by Tom Minshall, who is an employee based at Siak Transfers in Stoke on Trent.

The Apprenticeship Recognition Awards showcase and celebrate the achievements of Apprentices who have exceeded expectations, shown an enthusiastic approach to learning, demonstrated initiative, enterprise, innovation and creativity and made a measurable impact within their jobs.

Thomas has successfully completed his Intermediate Machine Printing Apprenticeship and he is now working towards achievement of an Advanced Apprenticeship in Digital Pre Press for Print.

Tom’s journey at SIAK Transfers

Tom joined SIAK Transfers in 2014, following an initial interview with Axia Solutions, and commenced in the machine printing department.  Since then has become a fully integrated affable member of the team, who consistently achieves excellent results.  Throughout his Apprenticeship, Tom has been visited regularly by his Assessor / Trainer from Axia Solutions, Trevor Machin, who himself has over twenty years of experience of working in the print industry.  Both Trevor and Darren Routledge, Works Manager at Siak Transfers, recognised from the outset that Tom had an excellent work ethic and was very proactive and quality conscious, always ensuring all customers’ requirements were met and were of a very high standard.   Darren said “Tom applies himself beyond the execution of his normal duties, he uses his initiative to organise his own work load and without hesitation will volunteer to help team members when working to tight deadlines.”

Last year, an excellent opportunity arose for Tom when a key member of staff at Siak Transfers resigned from the studio, leaving the company short staffed at an extremely busy time.  Tom stepped forward and informed his manager that he had a good basic knowledge of how to use an Apple Mac computer and the necessary design packages that were required for the graphic reproduction.  With minimal training, Tom took on the role and has gone from strength to strength, resulting in a considerable saving to the Company with no additional salary or recruitment costs to pay.

Fulfilling recruitment requirements

Siak employs an expert team of ceramicists, screen printers and studio operatives and due to the Tom’s success the company has recruited an additional Apprentice, Sam Whitmore, who is now working towards achievement of his Intermediate Apprenticeship in machine printing. The company believe that the Apprentices can help them to remain the UK’s leading manufacturer of high quality screen printed Ceramic and Glass decals, serving the world famous local ceramics market and known throughout the world for its expert knowledge in screen printing techniques for ceramic and glass applications.

Darren Routledge stated “Tom has continued to strive in this job role and has gone from strength to strength, without Tom the company would have been unable to meet the customers’ orders and tight deadlines.  I believe that our working relationship with Axia Solutions is outstanding and as the relationship develops I foresee the Apprenticeship programme growing and expanding.
To find out more about Axia Solutions visit their website at

Pictured: Trevor Machin (Axia Solutions Assessor / Trainer), Thomas Minshall (Siak Transfers) and Darren Routledge (Works Manager at Siak Transfers)

Monday 18 April 2016

Outstanding Success for St Helens Based Company

Long Standing GQA Approved Centre Absolute Training Solutions have been working with Helena Propertycare (the maintenance arm of St Helens Housing Association Helena Partnership) where Thirty Nine of their employees have successfully completed their GQA NVQ qualifications in Fenestration Installation.

Speaking from their Skills Academy in St Helens, Paul Myers (Contracts Manager) was pleased with the outcome of the training which enabled his staff to apply for the MTC card and provide evidence of competency compliance with FENSA. Paul stated that he was ‘hoping to see the benefits over the coming months. The training was a great refresher for some employees who had not undertaken NVQ qualifications before.’

Some of the employees were really happy with the outcome of the training provided by Absolute Training Solutions Ltd. Andy Cunliffe stated that ‘The NVQ course has been excellent and has helped me to re-address any issues that have changed or been forgotten about since beginning the trade. The NVQ also pointed out a few things that I didn’t know before.’

Roy Hall (another NVQ achiever) was happy that the NVQ qualification was delivered in the workplace. He said ‘It was really good to be able to do the NVQ qualification and work at the same time. Everyone was really helpful.’

Haydn Hansford, Head of Helena Propertycare, said: "We know that there are challenges facing housing providers and local authorities, so our 'can do' company ethos and excellent reputation supports our work in building strong and sustainable partnerships.

"Our work with partners in developing a cutting-edge maintenance service has allowed us develop new workstreams, support our staff in gaining new skills and helping us to reduce carbon emissions and fuel bills for ourselves and our customers."

To find out more about working with Absolute Training Solutions please visit www.absolutetraining or more about Qualifications