Charles laments loss of traditional craft skills

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Prince Charles made a stand for vocational education this week claiming too many teenagers end up lacking practical skills.

He said many were leaving college without the "basic groundwork" in the subjects they were studying.

He said: "I know this through meeting lots of people from art school who are exhausted and fed up at not getting what they want out of life."

The Prince of Wales was speaking at a seminar on the future of traditional skills in Gloucestershire. He told delegates from the fields of architecture, stonemasonry and heritage that he believed many teenagers became disillusioned after being "pushed down the wrong route" at school.

He said: "I may be wrong, but I think it's partly because so many have been pushed down the wrong route and they find themselves being pushed into academic fields where they are simply not suited to that approach, and in fact these technical and manual skills are dying to come out.

"More should be done to encourage people to take up traditional building skills."

A report by the National Heritage Training Group warned earlier this year the industry needs to recruit 6,500 skilled craftsmen to restore and maintain Britain's historical treasures in the next year alone. The Wood-chester Mansion Trust, which hosted his talk, runs an apprenticeship scheme which allows student stonemasons to work on the restoration of the Grade 1 listed building.

Prince Charles, who is the trust's patron, said the skills should be used on new building projects and not just at historic sites. He said developments such as his own housing estate in Poundbury, Dorchester, had proved the popularity of traditional craftsmanship. He believes attractive housing developments could create social cohesion and boost community pride.

The Prince, accompanied by the culture minister David Lammy, had earlier met two stonemason apprentices.

Lucy Haugh, 31, who swapped a career in public relations to become a stonemason, said: "He seemed very interested in the fact that there was no funding or grants available for people over 30 who wanted to swap their jobs."

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