A new look for The Vocational College website

A very warm welcome to our new website. It’s been designed to be more user friendly than ever. As well as all the information you could ever need about the variety and breadth of training courses we have on offer, there are a host of useful links to Government and industry websites, designed to save you time and effort when you are searching for information. We have also included some interesting background material on our instructors, who have a wealth of expertise to enhance our customers’ experience.

Don’t forget, the Apprenticeship Levy has now come into effect. Under the new scheme, employers with an annual wage bill of more than three million pounds will be required to put just 0.5% of their payroll into the Apprenticeship Levy.  Employers who have an annual wage bill of under three million pounds don’t pay into the Apprenticeship levy at all and will only have to pay a 10% contribution to the overall cost of each Apprenticeship with the Government funding the remaining 90%.  This also applies to levy paying employers once their annual levy pot has run out.

If you’re thinking of enrolling employees on apprenticeships in the glass sector, we hope you have found our new website useful. Please contact our Business Development Manager Paul Gray at The Vocational College on 0151 944 1744 for more information.

Industry first for Heavers of Bridport

Heavers of Bridport manufactures and installs double glazed windows, upvc doors and conservatories to customers across Dorset, Devon and Somerset. A family business, founded in 1960 by master builder George Heaver, grandfather of the current MD Ross Heaver, the company prides itself on a reputation for building properties of quality.

The company has always been dedicated to ensuring high quality training for its staff and all installers, even those with previous experience, work with a senior team member for at least a year to get them used to the business’ rigorous working practices.

Heavers is also very proactive in its approach to formal qualifications and has fully embraced the qualification route to compliance over the CPS operators testing and assessment. It is the first Independent Network company to complete the Competency Update Qualifications (CUQ) that make them Minimum Technical Competence (MTC) compliant for a further five years. Having already completed a full NVQ, a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) update has to be completed every five years to prove staff are still competent and carrying out their duties to current legislation.

Ross Heaver, Managing Director at Heavers of Bridport explains: “We pride ourselves on our master builder heritage and providing top quality training keeps our workmanship standards consistently high. This is just one of the steps we take to ensure total customer satisfaction and safeguard our excellent reputation.”

The CUQ for three members of staff were recently assessed by one of our experienced assessors. Daniel Legg, Bryce Riglar and Gavin Gay, who work as Senior Installers, have now been certificated with GQA qualifications in Fenestration Installation and have been presented with their CUQ.

Paul Gray, Business Development Manager at The Vocational College commented: “Upskilling and remaining up-to-date with training is so important. It’s great to see Heavers and its team making this level of commitment to ensuring that they are maintaining consistently high standards of craftmanship and industry knowledge. As the first Independent Network member to achieve this, they are setting the standard for others to aspire to.”

Here at The Vocational College, we provide apprenticeships for all types of glass and glazing qualifications, so whatever the area of specialism, we can offer the training opportunities. Why not upskill your existing staff, HMG will pay 90% of the cost! For further information on our courses in the glass industry and funding opportunities available, call Paul Gray, Business Development Manager, on 0151 944 1744.

The Vocational College enjoys a successful year at the FIT Show

We have recently attended this year’s FIT Show, which for the first time was held in its new home at the NEC, Birmingham.  This huge trade show is aimed at fabricators and installers involved in the UK window, door and conservatory industry. The three-day event included working displays and seminars from industry experts and leading innovators. Dozens of manufacturers and suppliers were in attendance and there was an array of new developments, from smart door access technologies, to the latest in glazing and window solutions.

It’s an essential diary date for anyone involved in the glass industry and we made sure we were there in various capacities. Paul Gray, Business Development Manager from The Vocational College, was interviewed by presenter Charlie George for FIT TV.  Paul was exhibiting as part of the GQA stand, talking about GQA qualifications in the glass industry and the various opportunities to study for them. He discussed how to make the grade on the courses, with students developing through a combination of knowledge-based learning and performance-based aptitude, and the continued accent on apprenticeships.

PG Fit Show 1

Paul also delivered four seminars for the Epwin Group as part of its ‘Excellence as Standard’ launch, underlining ‘Quality Through Qualifications’, which discussed The Vocational College and its educational role in the industry in delivering GQA courses.


Operations Director, John McCollah, Neil Snowdon and Dwayne Lewis from the marketing team were also on hand answering questions about the Apprenticeship Levy and the value of qualifications.

A regular highlight of the FIT Show, the Master Fitter Challenge saw six teams of installers from all over the UK coming together to compete. They had to install windows, residential and bi-folding doors, and a lantern roof over two days, under the scrutiny of a team of assessors, again provided by GQA. Neil Miller, Glass Tutor/Assessor at The Vocational College, was one of the judging panel on this year’s Master Fitter final, while other guests and visitors included ITV Loose Women’s Saira Khan and TV personality Nick Knowles, a strong advocate of innovations associated with building construction, through his involvement with such TV programmes as DIY SOS. Nick was also the celebrity host of the evening’s Gala Dinner, where we hosted a table, with guests including Corgi Fenestration.

Nick Knowles announced the overall winners of the Master Fitter Challenge 2017 as David Keates and Jonathon Mountford of DK Windows. David and Jonathon coped with the pressure and won the top prize and a cheque for £5,000. They also triumphed in the bi-folding doors section of the competition. The event, supported by FENSA, saw the competitors working in real-life situations, simulated in the indoor arena.

The Vocational College representatives that attended this year’s FIT Show declared it a resounding success and are looking forward to the next event in 2019.  John McCollah commented: “Fit Show was a great opportunity for TVC to catch up with a lot of people, face-to-face, in a relatively short time frame.  A lot has happened this year with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and reduced funding for SME’s and it was good to be on hand with up-to-date advice for employers.”

Paul Gray’s full interview on FIT TV can be viewed here:

For more information on The FIT Show 2017, including the award winners, visit: http://www.fitshow.co.uk

To get in touch about our wide range of courses in all sectors of glass and glazing at The Vocational College, contact Paul Gray, Business Development Manager, on 0151 944 1744.

Photos by Brendan Clayton withbrendan

The Vocational College judge the Master Fitter Challenge at FIT 2017


FIT Show Logo

Held at the NEC in Birmingham, the FIT Show 2017 is a shop window for all that is innovative and good about the glass industry.  From the designers and technicians, to the manufacturers, fitters and products, it’s the most important date in the calendar.  Once again, representatives from The Vocational College have been invited to be part of this year’s show. They will be part of the judging panel for the Master Fitter Challenge 2017, a prestigious award that is the showpiece of the three-day festival.

It’s a highly-competitive contest, with six finalists battling it out in front of a live audience. Last year’s winner was Craig Hanson who said that winning was like being voted ‘Footballer of the Year’. The Huddersfield-based Pennine Windows installer swept the board in 2016 by winning each of the window, door and roof fitting competitions. This meant that he took the overall title unanimously. Industry giant FENSA is sponsoring the Master Fitter Challenge 2017, which is the fourth time it has supported this demonstration of best practice. Apeer is sponsoring the Door Challenge and the event is managed on behalf of the FIT Show by the Glass Qualification Authority, which with industry expert judges have whittled down a shortlist of entrants to six for the live final. Winners share a £10,000 prize fund, with £5,000 going to the outright winner. The prizes will be awarded at a black tie gala dinner on the evening of Wednesday 24 May, which will be attended by more than 1000 guests.

Representatives from The Vocational College are pleased once again to have been invited to take part at this year’s FIT Show, which takes place from 23-25 May 2017.  TVC assessor Neil Miller has been chosen as one of the judges for this year’s competition.  Neil will be supported by Steve Hill TVC’s Delivery Manager and Paul Gray TVC’s Business Development Manager at the event.

The trade show, the only one of its type in the UK, attracts the biggest names in the industry.  Its new home this year is the NEC, to allow even more room for more exhibitors and attractions, with visitors and stands from home and abroad. With the high calibre of fitters, The Vocational Collage will be on the look-out for the most professional and expert candidate to take the title.

For more information on The FIT Show 2017, visit http://www.fitshow.co.uk. To get in touch about our wide range of courses in all sectors of glass and glazing at The Vocational College, please contact Paul Gray, business development manager, on 0151 944 1744.

Windows of Opportunity: Fully-funded apprenticeships still available until May

With changes being implemented next month in the way apprenticeships are funded, there’s a countdown for employers to become part of the scheme before the arrangement is amended. There’s still time to sign up to the existing scheme, before the government instigates a new Levy that will be contributed to by employers, to be put towards apprenticeship training.


The UK government has recognised that apprenticeships are a vital component of young people’s working lives. The need for certain skills and an apparent shortfall in vocational training have resulted in roles in some trades becoming harder and harder to fill. The government wants to double spending on apprenticeships and a Levy introduced at the beginning of May 2017 will be part of the strategy to address this.  However, if employers sign up for apprenticeships in April, they will still receive them fully-funded.  There’s still time, right up to the deadline of 30 April, to take advantage of the current scheme.  Anyone signed up before the date will be unaffected by the new rules.


Under the new scheme, employers with an annual wage bill exceeding three million pounds will be required to put 0.5% of their payroll into the Apprenticeship Levy.  Under these new regulations, employers will be able to withdraw vouchers from the Levy, to put towards funding apprenticeship places.  Employers who have an annual wage bill of under three million pounds don’t pay into the Apprenticeship levy, but will have to pay a 10% contribution to the overall cost of each Apprenticeship with the Government funding the remaining 90%.  This will also apply to levy paying employers once their annual levy pot has ran dry.


There will also be the Apprenticeship Service, an online service that allows employers to choose and pay for apprenticeship training.  Apprenticeships are a devolved government policy, which means that the authorities of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland manage their own programmes, including how and where the apprenticeship training money is spent.


With the deadline fast approaching, you can still make the most of the current, fully-funded government apprenticeship schemes.  So if you’re thinking of enrolling employees on apprenticeships in the glass sector, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge.  Contact our Business Development Manager Paul Gray at The Vocational College on 0151 944 1744 for more information.

Employers’ lack of knowledge about Apprenticeship Levy is worrying



New research from City and Guilds has revealed that as many as a third of employers liable to pay the new Apprenticeship Levy from April are not even aware of its existence. Encouragingly, in line with Government goals, about the same number of employers claim that the levy will encourage them to hire more apprentices.

From April, all employers with a wage bill of over £3 million will need to put 0.5% of their payroll into the Apprenticeship levy to fund apprenticeships. The Government wants to double spending on apprenticeship programmes in England and create three million new apprenticeships as a result. From May this year, employers will be able to draw vouchers from the Levy in order to fund apprenticeships.

Don’t forget you can still take advantage of the current fully funded government apprenticeship schemes until the end of April 2017. So if you’re interested in apprenticeships in the glass sector, contact us now while they are still fully funded. Contact our Business Development Manager Paul Gray on 0151 944 1744 for more information.


More information about the scheme can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-levy-how-it-will-work/apprenticeship-levy-how-it-will-work

Making the right choice – National Apprenticeship Week 6th-10th March 2017

If you have decided that apprenticeships are the way forward for your business, you should think carefully before you select your training provider. Making the right choice is essential to make sure you get the perfect provider for your business needs. We have made the process simple by putting together this list of 10 questions you should ask a provider:

  1. How long have they been in business?
  2. Can they demonstrate that their trainers have proven relevant experience?
  3. Can they provide references from other employers and can you speak to them?
  4. Are there any former apprentices you can talk to?
  5. How many apprenticeships do they provide every year?
  6. What experience does the provider have in providing training within the Glass sector?
  7. What was their last OfSted Grade?
  8. How can the apprenticeship meet your specific business needs?
  9. What recruitment support do they offer?
  10. How often will they visit your workplace to assess the apprentice?


Or, you could consider The Vocational College.  We are a multi award winning, national company and an established learning provider accredited with City & Guilds of London and have strong affiliations to GQA Qualifications (the leading awarding organisation for the Glass Industry) and other awarding organisations.  Our programmes are open to all, and we enjoy substantial contracts for the delivery of funded courses with the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency.  Our programmes are designed to meet the needs of employers and provide both young people and experienced workers with quality training towards nationally recognised qualifications in their chosen career sectors.


If you are interested in apprenticeships or wanting to up-skill your existing workforce, contact our Business Development Manager, Paul Gray on 0151 944 1744 for more information.

Corgi Fenestration Scheme Ltd Launched

CORGI Fenestration represents a new approach and a new opportunity for our industry

Mick Clayton CEO of the fenestration industry’s only qualification writing and awarding body GQA tells us why they are fully supportive of CORGI’s entry into the fenestration sector

“We have been campaigning for a number of years now to try to encourage employers across our industry to build on the GQA principle of delivering ‘Quality through Qualification’. It is a simple set of guiding principles which we believe helps those selling products to get the message across, that qualified people carrying out work in the homes of consumers or at the premises of commercial customers will deliver a better service, and quality, than people who are not”.

“I also believe, and have made the point many times, that if employers in the industry embrace qualifications more widely it will help to create a better attraction strategy to tempt young people to come into the industry and allow us to compete with those industries which do offer apprenticeships and qualifications as a part of a documented career path”.

“I was in discussions with Chris Mayne who is well known within the industry from his time at FENSA to see how together we might push the GQA ‘Quality through Qualification’ campaign forward. During our conversation, he made me aware that he, along with Jacqueline Crawford who had also spent time working for him as a consultant during his time at FENSA on the certification side of their business and is a previous Chair of the Competent Person Forum, were in discussion with a well-known consumer brand with an ethos which is based around the principle of using qualification to help deliver a trusted and totally reliable service”.

“As I became aware that this brand was CORGI it became obvious to me that GQA must support the venture as we would with any initiative which promotes people development and recognition. I am delighted that GQA have the opportunity to support this venture from the outset”.

“Of course, there is no getting away from the fact that most people associate CORGI with Gas Safety, and that is understandable. It is where CORGI came from and it is this heritage which helped it to develop what remains even today one of the most recognised and truly trusted brands in the eyes of consumer when it comes to safety, reliability, expertise and quality”.

“But CORGI has come a long way since it was founded in 1970 and its name is not only associated with the Gas sector. The CORGI brand already delivers products and services that range across the heating, plumbing and renewables industry, and it continues to be recognised for trust, reliability and expertise through its insistence that all CORGI registered companies and individuals adhere to a strict code of conduct”.

“CORGI coming into fenestration is a great opportunity for the industry to put itself on an equal footing with many other home improvement industries which win consumer business based on the fact that those delivering its goods and services are recognised as being formally qualified to do so”.

“I think that our industry has a great many very experienced people in it who deliver great products and service on a daily basis, but there are gaps”.

“There is no automatic update mechanism for our industry’s people to learn about new products, new regulations or new legislation – and away from existing people there is little or no process to attract new young recruits to our industry. This especially is a massive problem, and it is why in my opinion this new and exciting association with such a recognised and trusted brand is so important for the fenestration industry”.

“The new CORGI Fenestration business is based on qualification of tradespeople and will bring a new approach to the industry. It is something we are fully supportive of and will work alongside to deliver a sustainable approach to development and learning in the industry”.

The Vocational College is the largest provider of Glass Related Apprenticeships and Qualifications in the Country.  We hold significant contracts with The Skills Funding Agency, which makes all our qualifications  funded through the Government’s Apprenticeship programme.  This funding is open to all age groups.

To find out more and how we can help you can gain a recognized qualification in the Glass sector, please speak to Paul Gray – Business Development Manager, 0151 944 1744

Indigo sees way clear to invest in apprenticeship training


Last month we presented 55 employees of Walsall-based windows and doors fabricator, Indigo Products with their NVQ level II certificates in either ‘Fabrication of Glass Supporting Structures’ or ‘Glass and Glass Related Distribution and Warehousing’ on completion of their Apprenticeship programmes.


Our 12-month group apprenticeship scheme ensured that all staff were proficient in the fundamentals of Maths and English as well as gaining recognised glass and glazing industry qualifications.  Much of the training was completed on the job and on-line but with regular face-to-face group sessions as well as one-to-one mentoring and support.


Stephen Faulkner, General Manager at Indigo Products explained:  “We are totally committed to our team and we think it is important to not only provide jobs, but actually provide a career-based occupation.  With these qualifications our team now provides a higher quality workmanship, and they also have an industry recognised qualification that they can take with them wherever they go.”


He continued:  “Our learners have been great and they have all shown a lot of hard work and determination to achieve these qualifications and become a highly skilled workforce, we owe a lot to The Vocational College our training provider.  They have been committed, enthusiastic and adaptable throughout the process, which has helped us achieve what we have.”


Paul Gray, our Business Development Manager presented the certificates.  He commented: “It is a huge achievement and every one of these employees should be very proud of what they have accomplished.  Any training programme has its challenges but this group has committed to the learning and are now benefiting from that.”


Indigo Products has seen a quantifiable improvement since commencing apprenticeship programmes in 2015.  Staff turnover has reduced and customer satisfaction levels have increased.  Almost a quarter of the latest learners are now going on to Advanced Apprenticeship programmes at NVQ level III, with the full support of the company.


We worked with Indigo Products to ensure that the company benefited from fully-funded training.  For further information on apprenticeship opportunities available to new and existing staff, contact Paul Gray, Business Development Manager at The Vocational College on 0151 944 1744.

Institute for Fiscal Studies warns apprenticeship levy risks de-valuing apprenticeships

From April, the Government is introducing an apprenticeship levy – a 0.5% tax on employers’ paybill of over £3 million per year. The Government will pay over 90% of off-the-job training costs for apprenticeships (up to certain price caps).


A report out recently from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says that there is a “desperate need” for better vocational training. The Government’s industrial strategy also emphasises the need to improve technical education. However, the IFS report warns that most of the revenue raised by the apprenticeship levy will not be spent on funding apprenticeships. The IFS is also concerned that the increased subsidies might incentivise employers to relabel existing training schemes as apprenticeships so an overly hasty expansion of apprenticeships could lead to a reduction in genuine quality. Ofsted has already expressed concern about the quality of some of the apprenticeship schemes created recently.


The IFS states there is a good case for expanding apprenticeships but only where high quality provision can be ensured. Labour’s shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden commented: “Rushing to hit a three million target without sorting out the quality or increasing the proportion of apprenticeships under the age of 25 means they risk failing to deliver the longer term skills strategy we need.”


Here at The Vocational College, we have always ensured we only offer apprenticeships of the highest quality, designed to meet the needs of employers, young people and experienced workers whilst rising to meet current economic challenges. We combine vocational training and technical knowledge with dedicated teaching in English and Maths functional skills, leading to a fully rounded Apprenticeship. We are the largest provider of Glass industry related qualifications and have strong affiliations to GQA Qualifications, the leading awarding organisation for the Glass industry as well other awarding organisations.


If you enrol your apprentices onto a training programme before 1 May 2017 you will benefit from fully-funded training.  We can help you apply for and secure the funding you need and set up the apprenticeships you want.


Contact our Business Development Manager, Paul Gray, on 0151 944 1744 for more information on how an apprenticeship can help you prepare your organisation for the future.