It was always an ambitious undertaking, trying to draw a single thread between dozens of craft skills and come up with a qualification that could effectively test the talents of everything from furniture makers to piano tuners (not to mention jewellery, of course).
His task involved a huge amount of time spent liasing with people from other craft industries to discuss what types of ‘milestones’ could be drawn as parallels to which everyone could subscribe. If you’re going to offer a ‘craft apprenticeship’ as an alternative to ‘A’ Levels of university degrees, you’d better have a solid idea about what you expect the candidate to be capable of. That’s the rationale, anyway.
And so came to pass the day where the new ‘standard’ would be published – and the government published the standards for 40 other industries on the same day.
Holt sounded positive in the statement released about it:
I’m delighted that the hard work put in by 35 different disciplines representing British craft has materialised in a new apprenticeship standard. British craftsmanship is renowned around the world yet in recent generations has been in decline. With the new standard comes a new era when to be a craftsperson can once again be a coveted position in society. My thanks to all my fellow trailblazers for making this possible.
But now that he has completed Phase 2 of said task for the government, the real test can begin. Do jewellers hold the standard in high enough esteem to treat it seriously? Will some of those 35 disciplines fall by the wayside after realising it just doesn’t quite fit the way they work? Or will it be a storming success, and one which radically improves an industry that was crying out for some coherence in the way it educated its young entrants?
When I spoke to Holt about the undertaking back in March this year, it was clear that a sensible choice had been made by Vince Cable and Matthew Hancock (the government ministers who approached Holt to head up the process). Here is a businessman with an inimitable track record in bringing educative influence to the table in his own industry. But until the standard is in use, the time to judge his work is not now – ultimately this is still an early seedling for what may one day precipitate industry-wide change.