I am so grateful to many of you for playing such an incredibly important role in ensuring this apprenticeship programme can function and indeed flourish. Without you, I promise, none of this would have happened. As far as I am concerned in many ways, it is a dream come true as I have long had an admiration and respect for craftsmen of all kinds. It seemed to me extraordinary that there wasn’t enough attention paid to the development of these living traditions in terms of craftsmanship.
I have also felt for a long time that people never seem to understand the way in which individuals have a particular talent lurking inside of them, very often from a young age. When going around the country, particularly with my Prince’s Trust for the past 34 years, I kept finding so many young people who weren’t finding it as easy on the academic side but had huge vocational skills. When combined, the academic and the vocational, it can so often produce the most remarkable results with application and relevance.
This was another thing I felt strongly about – how to invest in the future. How, above all else, to ensure that before they were lost we have a chance to pass on the wisdom and the skills and the knowledge that we have built up over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I am thrilled that here at my Foundation it has been proved possible to develop this particular scheme.
Today I wanted to pass on my warmest congratulations to all the graduates of the 2009 to 2010 UK Apprentice Programme on successfully completing their programme, and also to those who are finishing with very exciting and significant offers of employment. If I may say so, you have done so well and worked incredibly hard. Nothing could give me greater pleasure than giving you your certificates in due course.
I also wanted to congratulate all the United States apprentices in the inaugural year of the US Rebuilding Communities Programme which has been under development ever since I visited New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. This particular programme has huge potential and so I am looking forward to meeting all those who have taken part because, apart from anything else, you are the future. The skills which you have learnt over the year will provide the opportunity for passing on those skills and ensuring that they grow and flourish in the United States. I can only wish you the very best in your future employment and hope that you have picked up something really useful whilst you have been here.
I have often found whilst talking to people involved in various craft activities that real inspiration comes from having the chance to work on a building site where there is attention to detail, to the use of material, to appropriateness. I think an area that we sometimes forget is the psychological effect of being able to work in a way that is really satisfying. It seems to me the secret is being able to blend the best of what we have inherited with the best of the modern, where it is as sympathetic and sensitive to the environment and context as possible.
I particularly wanted to thank and acknowledge the jury panel and the placement providers who have been fantastic in helping judge the whole effort here and, above all else, to provide opportunities for the apprentices to work on challenging projects in different settings, whether it is Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle or various other historic sites. Without your help and involvement none of this would be possible.
I must say I am thrilled that my Foundation has launched a professional membership which the graduating graduates will become a part of, joining many of the professionals and placement providers in the room I hope. Becoming part of this professional network of members is essential for both the support from others during difficult times but also for the opportunities it offers in finding employment and like minded associates. I do hope that both the jury members and placement providers are able to support this programme in the future.
I have been so encouraged, Ladies and Gentlemen, by what has happened in Jamaica where some of the associates from their Apprentice Programme are here with us today. I am much looking forward to seeing them. The work that is going on in Rosetown is enormously important in attempting to break the mould of the regeneration of slum areas that you find in parts of various cities. The apprentices’ involvement when they go back to Jamaica will be of enormous importance in the training and inspiration of others.
I wanted to thank Hank Dittmar and all his incredibly hard working staff for all that they do, ceaselessly really, to help manage and promote the work that so many of you are supporting.
May I reiterate my congratulations to all of you and I hope that you do have a great success in the future. Please do stay in touch with the Foundation so that we will have an ever growing army of people who we can rely on in the future. Well done.