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First person: Samuel-James Wilson

Bricklaying apprentice Samuel-James Wilson explains how he became an apprentice, what he most enjoys about it and the opportunities becoming an apprentice has opened up for him.

I became an apprentice at the age of 15. This wasn’t something I had always wanted to do; I had dreams of being a fireman but I never thrived in school, I didn’t enjoy what I was being taught and ended up being kicked out of two schools.

I very luckily got offered a chance to work one day a week with a local plumber who, after a few months, offered me an apprenticeship. I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and two years later I was qualified.

Although this was a great opportunity, I never loved plumbing so I started looking for something new. I then again, very luckily, got offered a chance to work with a local builder who I had met while working as a plumber.

I worked with him as a labourer for two years picking up various new skills along the way before I got offered an apprenticeship in bricklaying. Three years later I was fully qualified.

Bricklaying was the first job I had ever done which I really enjoyed. I would go into college on weekends and any free days I had to practise my craft. This was also the first time I’d been really dedicated to learning something new.

A couple of years after this I heard about an apprenticeship with The Prince’s Foundation – Building Skill in Craft Programme. This is a very prestigious apprenticeship where 12 lucky students are chosen from hundreds of applicants to travel the country and gain a heritage NVQ in their craft.

“I have faced challenging scenarios, difficult customers and the odd mistake but I can say with confidence I am a bricklayer and I enjoy it”

I spent days making a portfolio to send in with my application, and a few days later I was called to London for an interview. This was a nerve-racking experience, where I also got to wear my first ever suit! I got offered a place on the course, and seven months later I have just completed it and am looking to the future.

Throughout my time in the building trade I have faced various challenging scenarios, difficult customers and the odd mistake but I feel I can finally say with confidence I am a bricklayer and I enjoy it.

The highlight of my career has to be my apprenticeship with The Prince’s Foundation; I got the chance to meet and work with some very talented and knowledgeable people such as Dr Gerard Lynch who I spent two weeks with at his home and workshop learning about the history of my craft and the techniques that have been widely forgotten in this modern building age.

I also got the chance to work on some of the most amazing buildings in the UK such as Lincoln Cathedral and York Minster.

I would really recommend anyone thinking about an apprenticeship to go for it. I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t taken these opportunities. It is hard, and it’s a long, long road but the achievements outweigh everything else.

This year I also have the chance to spread my wings; I am travelling abroad to continue my work and learning. I plan to work with people less fortunate than myself sharing my knowledge and skills.  

Samuel’s blog is at http://apprentice-ship.com/

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