THEY were once commonplace across the country, with many of the skills passed down through generations to help keep buildings and other structures constantly updated. But many of the traditional crafts such as drystane dyking, thatching and pargeting are under severe threat of being lost forever as more modern building techniques are increasingly used.

Now, however, Prince Charles has launched an attempt to recruit an army of apprentices at his Scottish base to keep traditional crafts “built up over hundreds of thousands of years” alive.

The prince fears too many craftsmen, such as thatchers, drystone wallers and stonemasons, are nearing retirement and need to pass on “this wisdom and knowledge” to a younger generation.

He now wants a travelling head hunter to recruit new apprentices at such things as job fairs – to seek youngsters to work in traditional crafts that are in danger of being lost.

The Building Craft Programme Co-ordinator will help manage a number of the Prince’s Foundation’s existing education programmes, with a particular focus on our developing craft-training programmes.

The job will be based at Dumfries House, the Ayrshire stately home saved for the nation by the prince, and where his foundation is now centred.

“The Prince’s Foundation believe that it is crucial to preserve the valuable craft skills which are required to conserve our historic built environment,” says the advert on the Dumfries House website.

“These skills are gradually being lost as the average age of workers in the historic buildings sector approaches retirement age. Through education and hands-on training, the foundation strives to provide opportunities which ensure we pass on this wisdom and knowledge which had been built up over hundreds of thousands of years.”

The job offers a salary of £24,000-£26,000 and will also help ensure the successful delivery of two key craft training programmes, as well as recruiting students from across the UK.

The job description adds the successful applicant must travel as necessary to recruit apprentices (such as attending apprenticeship fairs) and to regularly meet placement providers and students on placement across the UK.

The successful candidate must also “work with internal/external media teams to promote traditional craft and raise awareness of ongoing activities. Competencies necessary for the role include; strategic thinking, teamwork, performance management, budget management, working to deadlines, organisational and leadership qualities, research and writing skills and influencing skills”.

Applications close on May 20.

Meanwhile, a skilled young craftsman is playing his part in the conservation of some of the UK’s renowned historic buildings after gaining a place on the training programme.

Cameron Waring, from Ballymena, was selected as part of last year’s intake on the Prince’s Foundation’s Building Craft programme and worked with expert craftspeople to take his skills to the next level.

The former student of Newtonabbey College, 21, said: “When I left school, I didn’t know what to do and saw an advert for an apprentice bricklayer with a local firm. After graduating from the college, I left the firm and set up on my own and have built up a good list of clients. 

“I was looking to the future when I applied for the Prince’s Foundation’s Building Craft programme. I don’t want to be banging the blocks down when I’m 65. Luckily, I gained a place on the programme.”

The course starts with an intensive three-week summer school in London and Ayrshire. 

Students learn skills such as drawing and geometry and embark on architectural tours during their stint in Shoreditch before heading north to participate in workshops at Dumfries House estate.

Once at Dumfries House, they work with master craftspeople in stonemasonry, joinery and timber framing, thatching, lime plastering and pargeting. The group then tackles a design workshop on the estate, near Cumnock, in the surroundings of Valentin’s Education Farm, learning about public consultations, design modelling and technical drawing.

Mr Waring said: “I would like to put into everyday practice the skills I have learned here, especially the stone carving and plastering. For me, getting into the specialist side of brickwork, setting granite heads and creating arches, is more detailed and better.”

Simon Sadinsky, deputy executive director (education) of the Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House, said: “We believe it is crucial to preserve these valuable skills, which are gradually being lost as the average age of workers in the historic buildings sector approaches retirement age. It’s crucial we pass on the wisdom and knowledge built up over hundreds of thousands of years. 

“This course is designed for craftspeople like Cameron who are looking to bridge the gap between basic qualifications and becoming a master crafts person working in the heritage sector.”

The foundation is now the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire, with more than 200 full-time and part-time staff across the house, estate and education and training programmes.