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Tue August 16 2022

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Investment in Apprentices Pays Dividends for Leading Sussex Stonemasonry Company at Natural Stone Awards

1 Dec 10 James Elsey, a 20-year old apprentice at Cathedral Works Organisation (CWO) Ltd, has been named joint winner of the Trainee Mason of the Year Award at the Stone Federation’s Natural Stone Awards 2010, held at Lords Cricket Ground in London.

James won the award for his impressive samples of work, his attitude, passion and ambition. His achievement marks yet another training success for CWO, the Chichester-based Historic Building and Restoration Company, who have carried out high profile restoration work at the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and many other historic buildings and stately homes.

This is the second time CWO has won the award in two years and demonstrates the company’s commitment to training the craftsmen of the future at a time of skills shortages across the construction industry. The number of apprentices in England has declined severely in the last 20 years and a 2009 Skills Commission survey found that only 8% of employers offered apprenticeships. CWO has bucked this trend operating an apprenticeship programme since 1965. Its first apprentice, Richard Mitchell, is still working with the business as a contracts manager.

Earlier this month, the Government launched its ‘Skills for Sustainable Growth’ strategy that aims to expand the numbers of adult apprentices by up to 75,000 with an increase in funding of up to £250 million over the spending review period. Fundamental to the plan’s success, however, will be the willingness of employers to take on an increase in apprentices during an economic downturn.

For CWO, investing in skills development is a no-brainer. Bernard Burns, Managing Director at CWO explains: “Our apprenticeship programme is fundamental to building our business and our reputation for skilled craftsmanship, as well as ensuring skilled craftsmen for future generations. It costs £90,000 to train an apprentice over three years and we have three to six apprentices working for us at any one time. This is a significant investment in both time and money but we have built our reputation on the quality of our staff.

We are delighted that James Elsey has been named joint winner of the Trainee Mason of the Year. He is an excellent example of the enthusiasm and craftsmanship that defines our workforce.”

A thriving, independently-owned business, CWO is one of the UK’s leading Historic Building and Restoration Companies utilising its skills in stonemasonry and fabric restoration. It currently employs a team of 100 with offices in London, Chichester and Kent. CWO’s work includes restoration work on bridges, castles, churches, country walls, famous schools including Roedean and Christ’s Hospital, stately homes including Petworth House, Goodwood House and Wiston House, conservation of Memorial Crosses across the South, as well as restoration work for individuals on bay windows, fireplaces and patios. 

More recently, CWO has gained a reputation as a historic buildings contractor due its award-winning work on high-profile projects that include restoration work at The Monument in London and the Devereux Tower in the Tower of London, as well as the slightly unusual relocation and reconstruction of Temple Bar. Recent projects include Buckingham Palace, the Real Tennis Court at Hampton Court and the restoration and rebuilding of the St Lawrence Jewry Memorial Fountain for the City of London Corporation.

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