The GAI celebrates at education awards

The GAI presented diplomas and awards to industry professionals in a ceremony at London’s Tower Hotel in March. The 41st GAI Education Awards celebrated the outstanding educational achievements of students who passed the prestigious GAI Diploma in 2020 and 2021, as well as those who had secured prizes as the top students worldwide. 

Joining nearly 400 guests from across the architectural ironmongery industry was guest speaker Ollie Ollerton, an ex-Special Forces soldier turned television star and author. The event, hosted by GAI chief executive Simon Forrester, was sponsored by ASSA ABLOY, with the prestigious Pinnacle Awards for the top student in each year sponsored by CES (2020) and Norseal (2021).

This year’s event was a unique double celebration, the 2020 event having been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Welcoming guests, GAI president Mario Del-Signore said: “Education is a central pillar of the Guild, and it was crucial for us to ensure training and diploma courses continued to be available throughout the height of the pandemic – something which required new teaching formats and methods of support. 

“To have successfully gained a qualification during the last two years is huge. I have the utmost respect for these students and the teams who delivered the training and supported them in their studies. This celebration is not just for our students, but for the whole industry to give ourselves a pat on the back, because the fact we’re
all still here shows great resilience and tenacity.”

Further emphasising the importance of the GAI education programme, Eryl Jones, managing director of main sponsor ASSA ABLOY, said: “Education must be the bedrock of our industry, and as business leaders we must make sure we invest in our people today and tomorrow, maintaining the skill levels required to carry out our roles. 

“The advice we give, the knowledge we impart, the products that we make and sell, must keep people safe and secure. In the schools, offices, hospitals and homes, in all the places where our friends and family live and work each day, our part is to ensure they do so in the safest possible way. Getting it wrong is simply not an option, and that is why education and the work of the Guild is so important.”

Top performing students in the 2020 Certificate in Architectural Hardware Stage 2 (CiAH):

  • Juliet Sindol, dormakaba Gulf Door Controls FZE – Saudi Arabia 
  • Phedros Elia, Panicos Ph. Elia Ltd
  • Neil Smeatom, Norseal Ltd

Top performing students in the 2020 GAI Diploma:

  • Conor O’Loughlin, ASSA ABLOY NZ Ltd
  • Andrew Poffley, ASSA ABLOY NZ Ltd
  • Kyle Davies, d line Eisenware Ltd

Top performing students in the 2021 Certificate in Architectural Hardware Stage 2 (CiAH):

  • Gowtham Raj Malaisamy, Hormann Middle East and Africa FZE
  • Mei Tseung, Higrade Limited
  • Jonathan Walker, HOPPE (UK) Ltd

Top performing students in the 2021 GAI Diploma:

  • Jessica Calpin, Unico Locksmiths
  • Gareth Ward, CBS (Midlands) Ltd
  • Tom Grainger, Securefast Plc n

For a full list of those who were presented with their Diploma visit www.gai.org.uk//educationawards

The Pinnacle winners

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall: “There were three of us studying for the Diploma; we’re a small scheduling team here in ASSA ABLOY NZ. There are no qualifications like it in
New Zealand. 

Most of us have been in the industry for some time and have good experience but this is a way of formalising your professionalism and knowledge. 

I had the certificate already (and had won a prize for it) and had heard it was a big step up to the Diploma but I wasn’t aware of the sheer volume of work and effort required. It was certainly daunting at first; I thought there is too much to remember for an exam but if you put in the work you then find what looked impossible is not at all. The effort pays off. 

Winning the Pinnacle Award was a huge bonus. The three of us were merely shooting for a pass. But because we were working for the same goal we worked as a group, having daily catch ups and quizzing each other and sticking to a steady study schedule. Doing it with other people pushes you and makes it easier. I would suggest that to other students: make use of any tools and resources available to you – online group chats, workshops, talking to other people going through it. 

We faced a few dramas along the way: two of us flew to London for the classroom training but in the days we were there the UK shut down for the first lockdown and we faced the prospect of being unable to fly home. Then Covid issues meant the exam was delayed three times. Then the most stressful drama occurred. After our exam papers had been mailed to the UK we had a call from Rachel to say they hadn’t arrived. After all that work to face the prospect of having to do the exam again was unthinkable. Fortunately they eventually turned up. 

Our results were the icing on the cake as all three of us won prizes: I got Pinnacle and the others got silver and gold. 

Jessica Calpin

Jessica Calpin: “ I was thrilled to win the award. I was so new to the industry and had no experience whatsoever – my degree is in marine biology! 

My husband Andy and I set up our business and he suggested I take stage one and two to gain product knowledge. I took them both in the same year despite having two young children and building a business; it was often 9pm before I could begin study. I wasn’t expecting the outcome of getting distinction in my certificate! Then Andy suggested I go for stage 3 but it’s a huge step up, with a lot more work and a lot more to learn and remember. 

I did feel stressed – specifying doors was utterly new to me – and I admit I found access control confusing. I wasn’t from one of the large companies where people have experience and knowledgeable people around them. I had to put in so much more effort because I knew nothing. But the turning point was when I attended the three-day classroom course. After that I felt much more confident and determined. And those of us on the course then created a WhatsApp group and weekly meetings, which was a huge source of support.

When the results came in I was thrilled! I’d got 88.8% and I could honestly not believe it. When Rachel told me I was a medal winner I was shocked. Even then I didn’t know I had won the Pinnacle – I assumed bonze. On the awards day to hear my name called for Pinnacle was amazing. It’s never people like me and it was a very proud moment. 

Securing my Diploma and the letters after my name has made me feel more confident in my job. It feels great to have people take me more seriously when they see my qualifications.” 

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