Stone training group visits Bath College masonry department

NSITG visits Bath College

The Natural Stone Industry Training Group meets members of staff in the purpose-built stonemasonry workshops of Bath College.

Members of the Natural Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG) visited Bath College’s Stone Masonry Department on 30 March. The group, including representatives from Welsh Government’s Cadw, Stone Federation Great Britain, Brunel University and the Building Crafts College, met Bath College tutors and heard about new courses being developed to enhance the Stone Masonry Trailblazer apprenticeship courses.

Facilities at Bath for stonemasonry are now housed at the Somer Valley Campus, at Radstock, that were purpose built for the masonry and carpentry departments.

Training suites include workshop banker environments and outdoor areas to simulate site experiences.

Students working on the bankers during the visit were local young women drawn to the masonry course because of its diverse routes of career options. They said they were particularly interested in the detail of the banker work and lettercutting.

Student work seen by the NSITG group included examples of drawings and initial stages of developing form and texture using clay for practice and development.

The new Stone Masonry Trailblazer Apprenticeship offers a core of mandatory units, including health & safety. Students then have to choose an optional route from: Banker, Exterior Mason, Interior Mason, Façade Preservation, Heritage Mason or Memorial Mason.

Bath are in the process of developing courses to offer more of the routes, but currently have banker, interior and external fixer only.

Heritage will be added at the start of the new term in September, with a view to adding memorial mason in due course.

All routes attract Government and CITB grant aide for employers.

Bath has recently recruited new lecturers from the stone community to work with students as it aims to maintain the standards that last year saw two of the college’s students win Gold and Silver in stonemasonry at SkillBuild, the multi-trade skills competition for construction trainees and apprentices. Gold was won by Lewis Evans and Silver by Kane Frith. They were both Level 3 stonemasonry students.

New developments at the college include short courses for both BIM (building information modelling) and CAD (computer-aided design) that are being added to the Apprenticeship offer, along with a new suite of sustainability options ahead of them becoming a mandatory part of the Trailblazer delivery.

This was the NSITG’s first face-to-face visit since the Covid restrictions began and members appreciated the opportunity to discuss best practice and share ideas over lunch.

Next NSITG plans to visit the Building Crafts College in London, which is another of the colleges delivering the new Trailblazer apprenticeships.