For those that were not at the HCA skills forum at Chelsea College in 2011, or for those that were and would like a transcript, this is John Hayes speech. We felt it was enormously positive, at last we have someone in a position to make a difference who really understands and values heritage crafts.


John Hayes Speech at HCA skills forum

Good afternoon everyone. I am  delighted to be able to send this personal message to your forum. Previous generations understood the value of craft, and I want you to know, that I know, that it’s value is undiminished.  Those that are preoccupied with the soulless ubiquity which is the antithesis of heritage crafts won’t or can’t grasp the hunger for that which is made with care,  precision and style.

It is through the union between art and craft that what we use becomes what we value.  It’s time to relearn, there is much more to heritage crafts than a sentimental attachment to  what was, they are for then and now and they provide markets for more than 10,000 businesses and work for nearly 90,000 people.  The time when people are at last coming to realise that practical skills can provide a secure route to success in life, heritage crafts are living models  of how such skills can be most effectively acquired.

Of course the heritage crafts do something more important even than that. They remind us of the British people’s latent  capacity to acquire and apply skills in ways that made this country a great manufacturing power in the past and can, and will, do so again in the future.

Heritage crafts deserve to be encouraged and there are three basic ways which I want us to start to do that immediately:

First at present we have no clear picture of the sector skills needs including those of crafts which are in danger of dying out. and of where the strongest opportunities for growth and job creation lie. That is no basis on which to either make policies to promote craft or to encourage more young people to enter the sector. So there is an urgent mapping exercise to be undertaken and it will be undertaken.

Second we must make sure that everyone is made aware of the importance of heritage crafts in modern Britain, and the opportunities they offer to young people of talent and ambition. We don’t start from scratch here do we, for example the Balvenie masters of  craft awards in which the HCA is collaborating closely will be bestowed at the start of June and will be a great step forward in raising the profile and status of heritage crafts. They have my full support. We should do much more to support and build on initiatives like this, and that’s why I am leading work to develop a new framework for the recognition and celebration of craft. The aim will be to raise the status of craft and make people know that achieving craft skills is as important, perhaps more important,  than academic prowess alone. I want also to ensure that guilds and livery companies can help to sustain heritage crafts in the same way that bodies like the law society and the royal college of surgeons  help to bind other professions together and protect their interests.

Third, we must ensure that heritage craft skills benefit from the full measures that are already in place, for example the government has protected the budget for informal adult community learning, and there is a great opportunity for heritage crafts here. Informal learning can be the first step towards discovering, or developing a new talent, an aptitude for craft and the start of the journey that leads to a new fulfilling career for some. The next step is often an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships of one sort or another have been the main route into craft since early times, and they remain a proven way to master a skill. The government has committed itself to building more apprenticeships in Britain than ever before. In the CSR and the budget we allocated extra resources to ensuring that apprenticeship opportunities are spread  across sectors and across Britain. I want a new generation of apprentices , learning skills, getting and keeping jobs, building Britain’s prosperity. It is clearly in the heritage crafts interest to take advantage of that extra capacity.

You know heritage craft say much about our country. They illustrate just what can be done when people master a competence that has both utility and more than that has beauty. I make no apologies for making the link between craft and style.

I hope that brief summary provides a clear indication of just how seriously I take the issue of heritage crafts. Not just their preservation but the active promotion of craft skills.  Craft is like a golden thread that links our past present and future and this is a timely reminder that the diversity and individuality of craft mirror the qualities of the British people themselves.  I’m determined that the British people through the acquisition of practical skills should be given every chance to succeed.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning 11/05/2011