Celebrating successful apprenticeships

29 Mar 2021

We are delighted to celebrate the success of a group of young trainees as they complete heritage skills training through our two major projects at Holy Trinity, Sunderland and St Swithun's in Worcester. The trainees have gained the experience they need to get started in historic building restoration and in turn building the resilience of specialist contractors to continue to conserve our historic buildings.

Tyler at work on a piece of masonry © MV Photography

Our major projects have supported three full-time apprenticeships over the last 18 months. Locally recruited young people have worked alongside specialists to develop their skills in joinery, working with lime, stonemasonry and plasterwork, learning to use traditional methods and materials that are needed to conserve our buildings.  As well as on the job training, our apprentices have all worked towards NVQ qualifications. 

Mentoring is provided by the Regeneration Team to help apprentices achieve their potential, offering a listening ear, arranging learning or mental health support and liaising with contractors and training providers.  Over the last year, this has been crucial as our young people have had to deal with the stresses of becoming adults during the pandemic as well as navigating short periods of furlough and new working conditions required to stay safe.  

For Tyler, one of our apprentices with Historic Property Restoration Ltd in Sunderland, a heritage skills apprenticeship has truly been life-changing.  Tyler joined HPR Ltd in 2019 with little experience but a real aptitude for building and a keen desire to learn.  He very quickly became a key member of the team, impressing the old hands with his work ethic and earning the nickname ‘The Tank’ thanks to his unstoppable approach. 

Tyler is on a multi-trade apprenticeship but through working on site has discovered a real love and flair for stonemasonry, spending hours with the masons learning to chop out decayed stone and precisely cut and fit replacement pieces.  His passion and attention to detail shines through when he talks about his work: “This apprentice position has given me so much, I’ve learnt from everyone on site, I’ve been able to learn to drive and buy a car and support my family, and now I’ve got a future.  I would never have known about stonemasonry but now I really love it.  I’ve bought tools and practice at weekends.  It’s great when the older guys or the architect tells you what a good job you’ve done”

Tyler has been offered a permanent role with HPR Ltd when his apprenticeship ends next month, and hopes to begin his formal stonemasonry training in the autumn; a fantastic outcome for the programme.

Emsi on-site at St Swithun's, Worcester © CCT

At Worcester, our apprentice Emsi has followed a similar journey.  Emsi has specialised in site carpentry, learning alongside Splitlath Building Conservation Ltd’s team of highly experienced joiners who are not only teaching him the practicalities but also passing on their love and passion for conservation-restoration work.  When work on-site at Worcester finishes Emsi will stay with Splitlath to work on other sites and is on track to gain his qualifications this winter, standing him in good stead for the future.  

In addition to our apprenticeship programmes, ten young people have completed heritage skills work placements on site, again working alongside older and more experienced craftspeople to develop skills.  For some of these young people, the placements have been a first taste of the working world whilst for others, they have been a chance to explore a new area of employment. 

For all, they have provided an opportunity to be part of a passionate team and to play their own part in caring for heritage.  One of the work placements has even led directly to employment; school leaver Luke has completed a twelve-week placement at Sunderland with HPR Ltd and has now been offered a paid role.  

Site supervisor Simon Hills said: “The heritage skills programme is great in so many ways.  We’ve got older

Luke now has a paid position with HPR © MV Photography

experienced guys on site who want to pass their skills on to a new generation but also it helps us to identify young people with the right attitude who want to learn these skills so that the company can continue to grow and to work on these special buildings, giving them the care they deserve”.  

A further legacy of our programme in Sunderland will benefit historic buildings and specialist contractors across the region for years to come; apprentice Tyler returned to his training college in recent weeks to set up a dedicated heritage work area and to give training in working with lime mortars, so that new cohorts of learners can experience using traditional materials in readiness for work placements with heritage contractors in future.

Regeneration Officer Elanor Johnson said: “When planning our heritage skills training programmes we could never have foreseen this outcome.  It is truly wonderful to see a young person gain the confidence to begin training others in the specialist skills that are needed to sustain our historic places of worship”.

Andrew Bass, Grants Officer for Allchurches Trust who generously fund the Craft Skills Programme in Sunderland, said: “We’re delighted that our funding has supported two heritage skills trainees into permanent employment. It has been fantastic to hear about their growth over the course of their training, and it’s clear that they have exciting futures ahead of them.”

The Sunderland Seventeen Nineteen Craft Skills programme is funded by Allchurches Trust.  The Worcester Sound and Art St Swithun’s construction apprenticeship is supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.  Heritage skills training at both sites could not take place without the dedicated support of our contractors Historic Property Restoration Ltd and Splitlath Building Conservation Ltd and training providers Resources NE Ltd and Hereford and Ludlow College.