by Emma Dexter, Stonemasonry Course Manager and Lecturer
This year we have introduced up to 152 hours of work experience each for our stonemasonry students, depending on their English and Maths commitments.
This is a new initiative at the college, which is extremely beneficial in bridging students' course knowledge with onsite experience, preparing learners for their future employability within a unique traditional and specialised trade.
Our students attend college three days per week, which frees many up for the rest of the week during which the students locate and experience work with a variety of local stonemasonry companies.
Our students expressed a keen interest in using their study weeks or holiday periods to immerse themselves fully into a work experience placement for a week or fortnight.
Due to their committed enthusiasm we decided to use our contacts with a view to setting up work experience placements at cathedrals in the UK. It is with the full knowledge that an opportunity such as this would inherently reinforce the learners' dedication to the craft of stonemasonry.
We were delighted when we received confirmation that Chris Sampson, Clerk of Works at Exeter Cathedral workshops, and the Dean & Chapter had agreed, with great enthusiasm, to offer our masonry students work experience placements of up to two weeks at a time at the Cathedral. A rare and extraordinary opportunity for anyone involved in the craft of masonry.
The continued demand for architectural preservation and knowledge in this traditional craft, especially in relation to some of the more ornate carving and masonry skills, it is of great value for colleges and for the students to receive support of this nature offered by Clerk of Works, Master Masons and other stonemasons, Dean & Chapters and senior heritage and funding organisations investing with the common goal to preserve these methodologies by creating new opportunities to pass traditional skills on to those committed to the stonemasonry trade.
In order to prevent financial constraints from standing in the way, we set up a meeting with the Wellingborough Planning & Regeneration Heritage lottery Council, which kindly agreed to fund the overnight B&B accommodation costs (on student application) of up to £200 per week.
Our stonemasonry faculty witnesses the evidence of our students' appreciation and sense of achievement regarding such work experience opportunities as well as all the surrounding assistance set in place to support them in succeeding in their future stonemasonry trade-related employment.
Level 2 diploma students who have benefited from work experience at Exeter Cathedral to date are: James Digger, Peter Mynard, Joe Campbell and Connor Wootton.
More students will be going to Exeter Cathedral this summer.