An Orcadian apprentice stonemason has claimed the bronze medal in a competition to find the UK’s most talented masonry apprentice.
Historic Environment Scotland apprentice Ross Kennedy, 24, who is based in the Hatston depot, Kirkwall, won the third prize at the SkillBuild UK finals, held in Birmingham’s NEC Arena, after qualifying from the Scottish heats.
Ross’s fellow HES apprentice, Gregor Alcorn, 28, based in Fort Charlotte in Lerwick, took the gold medal in the same competition, which has in the past been dominated by English college apprentices.
Gregor and Ross were both part of the three-man team which also scooped the Peter Ellis Shield, awarded to the best stonemasonry college team. The other member of that team was Scott Pierce, 27, a second year apprentice based at Elgin Cathedral.
Ross said: “I was again very impressed by the standard of competition at the finals. After winning bronze last year, it was always going to be difficult to equal or improve on that so to be amongst the medals was an unexpected bonus. I’m really pleased for Gregor as well, who I know worked very hard for his medal.
“Scott, Gregor and I were very proud to have been chosen to represent Elgin Training Unit in the Regional finals in May to back the Peter Ellis Shield, it’s all gone towards making 2016 a very special year for me personally and the ETU as a whole.”
Gregor said: “It’s been great just to be in Birmingham amongst this group of highly talented people whilst they show off their skills. Naturally I’m very happy with the gold, and also really pleased that Ross was also amongst the medals. I’m sure that Ross would agree with me that we both owe a big thanks to our training managers Graham Campbell and Alan Cormie for all their support.”
The SkillBuild Final – a national construction competition organised by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) – saw 78 competitors from across the UK, selected from regional heats, descend upon Birmingham’s NEC Arena to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals across 10 different trades, including bricklaying, wall and floor tiling, and painting and decorating.
Dr David Mitchell, director of conservation for Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Gregor and Ross represent the strong focus we place on sustaining traditional skills and are great ambassadors for all that we do in this area.
“To have them achieve this level of success is something we are very proud of in Historic Environment Scotland, but they also represent the collaborative work of the stone masonry sector in Scotland in raising standards over the past decade.
“Achieving two of the top three slots in the UK demonstrates the talents of Gregor and Ross, the work of our trainers and the support shown by our conservation staff across the country in nurturing new talent.
“Our training unit in Elgin was recognised by the SkillBuild Awards panel as being the finest unit of its kind in the whole of the UK for the second year running, and combined with our Stirling facility we are able to provide a high-quality learning experience across Scotland.
“Historic Environment Scotland continues to have a strong commitment to supporting traditional craft skills and we are pleased to have that recognised at a UK and international level.”
During the course of their apprenticeships, Historic Environment Scotland stonemasonry trainees learn the full range of stonemasonry skills, including cutting, hewing, building and pointing. Apprentices benefit from quality training and a good ratio of teaching staff to learners, access to the latest research into building techniques, and first-hand opportunities to learn skills that have been passed down through generations.