I hope if the good Lord spares me a few more years, if I reach the age of eighty, that by then there will be a veritable army of skilled craftsmen and women who we can rely on for the future. 

Ladies and Gentlemen I just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have this opportunity to join you this afternoon because I felt very ashamed that last year I wasn’t able to be here to congratulate the Crafts Apprentices. Although I am so glad that you came to Highgrove last year at the beginning of your time with us. So I am thrilled to come back and see them not looking too haggard.

I have come from the Building Crafts College, which I’ve always wanted to see and I’ve heard about the marvellous work they do there. Again I was hugely impressed by the number of people that go to that college, some five hundred of them, but also discovering several of them who are applying to come and do the course with us. So it will be interesting to see how many of them will actually make it. I have been proud to be able to work with the various kind and generous sponsors to enable our apprentices to have this experience. Above all I want to congratulate all the graduates of this year’s Prince’s programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen I have been doing my utmost to follow your progress throughout the programme. I had the opportunity to visit the Poundbury Pavilion, which you all contributed to at the end of last year. I was so impressed with what I’d seen there and the quality of work, which was only too evident. And I hope by working with the local youths of Dorchester on this pavilion that the vandalism as a whole will be kept to an absolute minimum.

I also particularly wanted to thank the jury panel members and indeed the placement providers for their willingness to work with us. All the effort put in by the jury panel is hugely appreciated particularly as they have such expertise and experience in the diversity of the various crafts.

Of course the Apprentice Programme simply couldn’t exist without the extremely generous contribution of the placement providers and indeed the mentors. Providing opportunities for our apprentices to have that valuable experience, in practice, to hone their skills on both heritage and new build properties, is utterly invaluable. I am thrilled that there have been opportunities to work at Windsor Castle and in many other sites. That generous access to some of the most significant and precious buildings across the United Kingdom, for the apprentices to work on, is unrivalled. I do hope the jury panel and the placement providers will be able to continue to support this programme in the future.

If I may say so, I am so pleased that this year marks the beginning of the Alumni Programme offering an opportunity for past, present and future Crafts Apprentices to create a vital network to preserve the skills to build beautifully. I am sure that the skills shortage in this country is enormous and therefore what they can do here and what we’ve done is but a small pin-prick in the overall picture. Nevertheless it is of crucial importance. And I’m one of those people who has huge admiration for those who have the talent to use the hands, the mind and the eye in way that can produce objects and buildings of such beauty. I am afraid I feel very strongly that beauty is one of the things that is lacking in our world.

I also want congratulate my Foundation on its recent launch of The Prince of Wales’s Building Crafts Apprentice U.S. Programme in New Orleans. So we’re spreading our tentacles gradually across the Atlantic and elsewhere.

Finally I really must express my warmest appreciation to those incredibly generous donors, those providing financial support for the programme without which none of this would have been possible. Michael Hintze and others have been unbelievably generous again and really are crucial to the continuation of this programme.

I also wanted to express just how much effort and contribution Hank Dittmar and all his staff here make for enabling all this to happen. I drag him around trying to put him in touch with people all around the world, suggesting ways of dealing with all the problems the communities are finding and the Foundation have to find ways to make things happen on the ground. So their skills are appreciated. From that point of view I just wanted to thank Edith Platten, the Education Manager of this programme and Catherine Howley who is the Director of Development and Skills. They both have particular responsibility for this Craft Apprentice Programme of which I am enormously proud.

I hope if the good Lord spares me a few more years, if I reach the age of eighty, that by then there will be a veritable army of skilled craftsmen and women who we can rely on for the future.