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From the organisers of

Stone industry gets go-ahead for its own Trailblazer apprenticeship

14 September 2016

Ian Major and Michelle Turner, who are leading the proposal for a stone industry Trailblazer apprenticeship. It has now been accepted that the stone industry will produce its own Trailblazer. It proposes streams for banker, interior and exterior fixer, memorial mason, stone carving, draughtsman, facade preservation and heritage craftsman.

A proposal by the stone industry to produce its own Trailblazer apprenticeship has been given the go-ahead by BIS (the government's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills) following the withdrawal of a proposal by Specsavers.

In a letter dated 13 September to Michelle Turner, who is chairing the committee producing the stone Trailblazer, David Sampson, Head of the Standards Development Team at the Department for Education Apprenticeships Directorate, says: "As you are aware, there is an overarching crafts Trailblazer that is already developing a number of craft standards, including one in stonemasonry. We have now received confirmation from the Chair of that group, Guy Kidd, that he is content for your group to take forward the stonemasonry craft standard, as there has been no development work carried out on it up to this point."

A group led by Specsavers, the opticians, was producing the stone apprenticeship as part of a suite of craft Trailblazers (you can read the full story of that here). It had come about as the result of a number of small craft groups joining forces in order to produce a Trailblazer that would suit them all. They had come together because of the requirement of a Trailblazer that at least 10 companies should be prepared to use the apprenticeship for training purposes, and individually the interests covered could not produce 10 companies to do that. The stone industry has found it difficult enough to find 10 companies prepared to use its Trailblazer for training, although it has now done so. 

In the end it proved impossible for the Specsaver group to produce just one apprenticeship to cover the diverse requirements of the different sectors (the group includes spectacle makers [hence Specsavers], blacksmiths, organ builders, hand engravers, clock & watch repairers, ceramicists and a variety of others, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Livery Companies' Skills Council), so it proposed a number of apprenticeship streams for different sectors. One of them was stonemasonry.

Stone was included because one of the members of the group is Beth Davies, a Building Conservation Officer with North Yorkshire National Park, who wanted to train stonemasonry apprentices to work on buildings and dry stone walls within the park. No work had been carried out on the proposal beyond the initial proposal, which had been presented to BIS before the stone sector's proposal went to BIS.

As a result, when the stone group did present its expresison of interest, it was told a proposal had already been received from Guy Kidd of Specsavers. BIS will only accept one Trailblazer per sector because part of its aim is to make apprenticeships clear and meaningful for industry and trainees with just one apprenticeship per sector.

But when BIS told the stone group its expression of interest had been rejected because of another from Specsavers, Guy Kidd was on extended leave, due first to a death and then a holiday, and the stone group was left perplexed about why Specsavers had proposed a Trailblazer for stonemasonry. When Guy Kidd returned to work the story emerged.

Michelle Turner, a Director of Essex company Stone Restoration Services, says it is great news for the stone sector, which came together at the instigation of the Natural Stone Industry Training Group. Now the industry has to produce the details of its apprenticeship proposal. "Let the hard work commence," says Michelle.

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