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James Thorne to lead IQ and MPQC into a new era

James Thorne, joint chief executive officer of IQ and MPQC
James Thorne, joint chief executive officer of IQ and MPQC

First published in the December 2023 issue of Quarry Management

James Thorne, chief executive officer of The Institute of Quarrying (IQ), has also recently been appointed as the new chief executive officer of the Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC). As joint CEO, he is responsible for leading the closer collaboration of the two membership organizations.

Mr Thorne’s joint tenure began on 1 December 2023, when incumbent MPQC chief executive officer Viv Russell stood down following a health scare earlier this year and will retire at the end of the year. Mr Russell has been appointed chair of the MPQC board and will provide continuity, guidance, and support for Mr Thorne in his role as joint CEO.


A collaborative past, present, and future

The new appointment underpins the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the IQ and MPQC in 2022, to work collaboratively, increasing the value of membership services within the minerals/mineral products sector, as well as to further develop collaborative partnerships with other sectors, industries, and government bodies.

Supporting both the MPQC’s corporate membership and the IQ’s individual membership often offers a unique opportunity to create a comprehensive approach in services that support skills, competence, and standards.

Established in 1983, the Mineral Products Qualifications Council is a ‘not-for-profit’ membership organization whose purpose is to fulfil the extractive sector’s need for a safe, competent, and sustainable workforce through the independent setting and maintaining of standards and qualifications, ensuring quality training and assessment.

The relationship between MPQC and IQ dates back to 2010 when IQ and MPQC shared offices in Regent Street, Nottingham, and then in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, before growth for both organizations meant they each needed their own headquarters.

The right time

In the last five years the industry and country has gone through enormous change, not least because of the pandemic, but also because of the ensuing challenges around the economy, demand, skills, and sustainability. By working closer together with resources co-ordinated under a joint CEO, the two organizations will deliver even better value for members and the wider industry.

The mineral products industry, like many others, is facing a period of rapid change in the next two decades with the transition to a zero-/low-carbon economy, which will require new approaches and partnerships to meet the challenges the sector faces. This is coupled with the increasing pace of change in technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), which will drive significant change in how the industry operates.

The collaboration will help ensure the development and progression of the standards and skills, both now and in future years.

Investing £6.6 million into the NSC

The timing is also important in supporting the vision for the National Stone Centre (NSC) in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. With planning permission already agreed for the redevelopment of the site and offices, the NSC is a £6.6 million investment in the future of the mineral products sector.

The National Stone Centre will be the centre for professional development for the mineral products industry and the long-term plan is for both IQ and MPQC teams to be co-located at the site. However, the timescales for the new building are yet to be finalized and flexible working approaches mean that hybrid working models can be adopted to facilitate closer working relationships as soon as is practicable.

Ben Williams, Chair of the IQ board, said: ‘Both IQ and MPQC have proud histories of developing industry-relevant education and professional development pathways aimed at raising standards and fulfilling the extractive sector’s need for a safe, competent, and sustainable workforce. With so many crossover areas of interest, and the ongoing progress of our plans at the National Stone Centre, having James in a joint CEO role will enable us to continue to deliver value to our respective members and to the sector.’

Not only will the NSC facilitate greater networking and professional development, but it will also become an inspirational visitor attraction, a beacon of education for young people to understand the historic, contemporary, and essential future importance of mineral production.

MP Skills Level 2 apprentices
MP Skills Level 2 apprentices

Minerals Matter and the future talent pipeline

Amongst the work that will benefit from the development of the NSC will be that of Minerals Matter. Already making progress on standards, technical education, partnerships, and future careers outreach via dedicated STEM ambassadors, Minerals Matter is actively co-ordinating stakeholders and demonstrating the positive outcomes of collaboration.

Both IQ and MPQC have solid reputations and experience in delivering industry-relevant qualifications across the mineral products sector. In working more closely together, the blend of providing professional education alongside vocational qualifications will mean that training provisions are complementary, providing clearer pathways for individuals as their careers progress. Solidifying the combined expertise and experience in training development and delivery will additionally bring a huge benefit to meeting the aims of Minerals Matter in sustaining a future-proof workforce for the industry.

IQ Lancashire branch CPD day
IQ Lancashire branch CPD day

MP Connect has momentum

MP Connect is another important sector scheme that hits at the heart of the positive work done by both MPQC and IQ in terms of the importance of health and safety of people by generating an auditable trail of specific competencies. Getting everyone home safely every day is critical and the MP Connect scheme efficiently supports safe working practices. Well supported by the majors and endorsed by other industry trade bodies, including the Mineral Products Association and QNJAC, MP Connect will also benefit from the combined networks of IQ and MPQC.

A unified voice

James Thorne, the man tasked with leading the organizations in the new era, concludes: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity, and I am grateful for the trust the MPQC board has placed in me in creating the joint CEO role. The benefit to the industry will be a unified voice on matters relating to skills, standards, and professional development for a competent workforce, with clearer lines of sight for those using our services. This understanding will, I think, demonstrate that there are valuable and compelling reasons for individuals and organizations to have memberships with both IQ and MPQC.’


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