Apprenticeship funding boost for traditional skills

Chester Renaissance has successfully bid for more than £100,000 of funding to ensure stone masonry and traditional wood joinery continue to be taught today.

The grant, from the Heritage Lottery Fund's Skills for the Future project, will train four apprentices over a four-year period.

Under the scheme, supported by Cheshire West & Chester Council and West Cheshire College, the apprentices will gain hands-on experience of their craft by working with local heritage-skilled businesses during four rotations of three months each.

They will also spend one day a week working towards an NVQ Level 3 at West Cheshire College.

Rita Waters, chief executive of Chester Renaissance, said: "We are absolutely delighted that our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been successful and we will now work to finalise details of the course and offer the first placement in January 2011.

"I hope that the apprenticeships we have secured will revive interest in heritage skills as well as providing young people with the opportunity to carve out a successful and long-standing career."

Leader of the council, Cllr Mike Jones, said: "We have over 5,000 listed buildings in Cheshire and many more that date back to pre-20th Century, all of which will need vital maintenance repairs and investment in the future. The truth is that there are just not enough people skilled in the trades of our forefathers to ensure their continuing preservation.

"Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester Renaissance and West Cheshire College are dedicated to working together to ensure that these much-needed skills are not lost to future generations."

The funding will enable West Cheshire College to develop an accredited heritage skills course, with the aim of expanding the course's intake in future years.

Dave Pritchard, construction manager at West Cheshire College, said: "This is a great opportunity for the College to develop a new course that will lead to a recognised heritage skills qualification.

"The qualifications will reflect the skills and knowledge needed to protect our historic built-environment and provide an opportunity for young people to work within the conservation, repair, maintenance and restoration sector."

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