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are fantastic apprentices, so I’m not saying there is no value in the old way. But the need for an employer is you want to hire people whose talents you can try to measure before you make your choice of candidates. At the moment there is nothing concrete and universally acknowledged where a jewellery industry employer can tell exactly how good you are at your respective skill.” Lee Lucas adds: “It always seemed to

me when I first joined this industry that a) how do you get people interested to do jewellery qualifications when they don’t really know it even exists as an option, and b) when there aren’t actually any jobs or qualifications for them to do.” The Holts aim, it seems, is to get

skills recognised, and get young people through the door.

200 on stream within the next 12 months. The organisation is not-for- profit and, says chief executive Lee Lucas, this gives it a parallel with the traditional apprenticeships model. “What’s almost specific to the jewellery industry, and certainly applies to other narrow industries is that there is a sort of heart to having apprenticeships. There is a feeling that it is worth helping to keep the skills alive in the industry, rather than just seeing it as an investment.” Where the academy is different is

that its qualifications are fully aligned with the government’s vocational ‘levels’ which allow training to be measured on par with academic types of education such as A Levels and degrees. The chief executive of Holts Gems, Jason Holt, actually wrote the government report on apprenticeships, and 12 of his 15 recommendations have been carried as the policy makers developed its framework. He is now the Government Apprenticeships Ambassador for Small Businesses. “A catchy title”, he jokes. “We have apprentices in Holts who pre-date the new system, and they

November 2013 |

WHERE IT’S HEADING For organisations like the Goldsmiths’ Company, this is arguably all very novel – the mass production and commoditisation of apprentices, is rather different from the old ‘freeman through servitude’ mantra. Jason Holt even describes the Company as “a bit behind the times”. Its director Peter Taylor, however, has got ideas about how to marry up the government’s ideas and his own. He says that whilst it will require a “changed approach”, and “the length of time we invest is a lot longer than the government framework requires”, he is confident that the Goldsmiths’ Company will be able to integrate. A closer look at the Company

however, and you discover that ‘aligning’ with the government’s framework will probably amount to the simple formality of a piece of paper. Clive Burr, whose business is a tenant in the Goldsmiths’ Company’s building in the Hatton Garden area of London, is does not seem remotely interested in the government framework. His passion, like all master crafts people, is the jewellery making. For Burr, it’s as simple as: “I’m

putting something back into the industry. I think these days it’s difficult to find people with those skillsets. This job requires huge amounts of concentration and dexterity with your hands, and intelligence as well.” Not

Jewellery Focus | 25

the words of a man who is interested in shaping government policy. Paul Savage, who was Burr’s apprentice and then was taken on full time after five years at the bench, says: “I got into this to gain top quality skills and get some one-to-one tuition whilst earning money. Learning and earning is a great way to do things.” He started when he was 16, and says he’s pretty sure he’ll be doing this – perfecting his craft – for the rest of his career. One suspects that whilst Peter Taylor is busy agreeing with government pen- pushers what standard of Savage’s pre- qualified work equals a level 2, 3, or 4 in their ‘vocational proficiency analysis’ (or whatever they nickname it), Savage and the apprentices after him will continue just as they did before. So will this change the industry

after all? The answer is probably yes. At least now there is a sense that the UK jewellery industry is beginning to re- stock itself with the skills that were lost during the ‘China Years’, and with the government pedalling apprenticeships as an alternative to university education, perhaps the coming years will see a surge in interest from young people interested to join the industry. This can only be a good thing if the economic upturn yields the demand for British made jewellery that we all hope it will. And with certificates that give

post-apprentices something recognisable to show for their years of commitment, the labour market in jewellery is surely on the verge of a revolution.

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