Stone finally gets its Trailblazer apprenticeship

Michelle Turner, chair of the NSITG, who has led the Trailblazer team: "We are delighted to announce that the Stonemasonry Trailblazer Apprenticeship is now ready for delivery."

Minister for Apprenticeships Gillian Keegan has finally signed off the funding for a stonemasonry Trailblazer apprenticeship, the final step in giving stone its own apprenticeship. 

The apprenticeship has units especially for skills such as site fixing, stone cleaning and memorial masonry.

Michelle Turner, a Director of Stone Restoration Services in Ongar, Essex, and chair of the Natural Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG), has led what has turned out to be a protracted process of achieving the Trailblazer. She worked alongside Claire Wallbridge, Administrator of the NSITG and Training Officer of Stone Federation's StoneTrain training arm, and others from the stone industry.

Michelle says: “Following a somewhat lengthy process we are delighted to announce that the Stonemasonry Trailblazer Apprenticeship is now ready for delivery by colleges and training providers with funding of £11,000 now approved.”

The colleges had asked for £26,000 a year because they said stonemasonry requires more resources than some other specialities in construction. The government did not agree and has given the same level of funding as for the bricklaying Trailblazer.

Trailblazers have to include formal off-site courses and final assessment. Only two colleges committed to it at the £11,000 funding level – Bath and York – although the Building Crafts College in London said it had planned for delivery of the new apprenticeship from September once it had been approved. Others are still considering.

Colleges say they have apprentices ready to start in September, but that they are willing to be flexible and if employers want apprenticeships to start sooner they will accommodate.

Until the end of September the government is giving companies £3,000 per apprentice that they take on, in addition to the CITB grants that now cover travel and accommodation as well as training fees... find out how to get the £3,000 here.

Michelle Turner, who started the move towards a Trailblazer for stone in 2016, says: “I would like to thank all who have been involved in reviewing, amending and finally getting this through to this stage – your efforts and support were very much appreciated.

“At NSITG it is our aim to support colleges and training providers in the promotion of this standard to ensure the future of quality stonemasonry training.”

More details about the Stonemasonry Trailblazer on the Institute of Apprenticeships website: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/stonemason