Coniston Stonecraft Liam Walker

Apprentice winds prestigious award

Furness College apprentice slate mason Liam Walker has secured a prestigious new sponsor for his training – the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.

The 17-year-old craftsman, who studies NVQ Level 2 Engineering and AutoCAD at the Channelside campus, was awarded an illustrious QEST Apprenticeship, for talented young craftsmen who are helping to keep Britain’s traditional craft skills alive.

“I feel really honoured – and privileged,” said Liam, whose employer is Coniston Stonecraft.

“To think that QEST has taken an interest in what I do up here in Cumbria… it’s amazing.”

Craft engineering tutor Lynda King said Liam always demonstrated a keen attitude and applied himself extremely well producing work of a high standard.

“Alongside his exemplary approach to work, I can state that Liam is also a very pleasant friendly person who is always polite and cheerful,” she said. “It is a pleasure to teach Liam, in over 20 years of working in further education Liam matches the very best students in all aspects. He really is a model student and human being.”

Julie Casson, his recruitment and development coach at college, also congratulated Liam on his achievements saying he was a ‘great learner’ and it was easy to see how he had won.
The trust – a charity of the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association – will help fund Liam’s training and equipment during his apprenticeship.

Liam – who lives with his mum, grandad and great grandad in Paradise, near Barrow – is the first apprentice slate mason the company has taken on in 40 years.
He won the award after a Zoom interview with QEST judges, plus four top businessmen and women from around the country.

The former Ulverston Victoria School pupil said: “The wifi isn’t always good up here on the Old Man and the signal in our workshop kept dropping in and out during the interview.

“I also had to turn off the stone saw so they could hear what I was saying. But they were very patient.

“We carried the laptop around the workshop and out into the slate yard. I showed them slate we’d just brought in from the quarry – and some of our finished pieces. They seemed impressed.”

Coniston Stonecraft owner Brendan Donnelly said: “Liam is a very talented, hard-working lad – and his QEST award is well deserved. It’s a great pleasure to have him on our team.

“Last summer, after we got together with Furness College to advertise for an apprentice, we couldn’t believe our luck when Liam walked through the door,” he said. “What’s more, he’s a local lad so he knows his slate. He fits in well because all five of our staff have a real feel for what we do. They were all born and bred in Cumbria.”

QEST was founded 30 years ago, to help maintain Britain’s cultural heritage, sustain vital craft skills and promote excellence in British craftsmanship. The charity’s patron is Prince Charles. Between 30-40 awards are made every year – to some of Britain’s most talented craftsmen and women.

Photo taken by Robin Cooper

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