Carving a role with PAYE Conservation

Apprentice Dylan Manktelow displays the finished result

PAYE Conservation on how one apprentice stonemason’s experience highlights a way forward for closing the skills gap

For years we have read about the threat posed by the skills gap and the potential cost to organisations and the wider economy, but the gap remains. Craft skills are not only essential to maintaining and growing our infrastructure, but also ensuring our built heritage is preserved for future generations. 

PAYE Conservation, a specialist division of PAYE Stonework and Restoration, is proud to have such an important role in the preservation and protection of historic buildings and we are committed to the development of craft apprentices through our own apprentice scheme, our talks in schools, college open days and our relationship with the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education. 

Last year we were thrilled to be a gold sponsor of the CIOB Conservation Conference, which highlighted the loss of traditional craft skills for historic buildings and discussed the modern role of the apprentice. It considered the role in a changing landscape and how we employ traditional skills in modern methods of working. The simple truth is that the landscape evolves, and we must with it, but without a skilled workforce the work will grind to a halt and cracks, both metaphorically and physically, will appear.

Senior stonemason Mat Millen gives a letter-carving 

Every year offers fresh challenges in securing the interest of young people into our apprentice scheme, but we do succeed more often than not. Ahead of the CIOB Conservation Conference we created a short promotional video to help draw attention to the conference but also to bring into focus the person on everyone’s mind: the apprentice. 

We filmed a letter-carving tutorial with our apprentice Dylan Manktelow and senior stonemason Mat Millen in our masons’ workshop at West Smithfield, one of London’s highest-profile sites. It is being converted into an exciting new venue for the Museum of London and is where Manktelow is learning his trade.

His decision to pursue a career as a stonemason was influenced by the opportunity to be creative in his work. “I find the process of a skilled craft to be interesting and the results are satisfying,” he said. He is particularly looking forward to “working on historic buildings and learning from experienced stonemasons”.

As he embarks on his journey, we are committed to helping him realise his ambition. Our investment in our apprentices is an investment in the future of skilled craft, but we need more young people like Dylan Manktelow. The challenges of making what we do attractive to a school leaver are laid bare, but thanks to the initiative and efforts across the sector, and to events like the CIOB 2020 Conservation Conference, the way forward is clearer than ever.

To see the letter-carving demonstration, visit

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