The importance of traditional stonewalling skills has been recognised through a new course offered by Tipperary ETB and has already been heralded as a major stepping stone to long term employment in the area.
The course in ‘Traditional Stonewalling Construction’ is only the second course of its kind to run in the country and is hoped that it will be able to build on the increased value placed on conserving Ireland's built heritage.
“There's a fantastic built heritage throughout every town in Tipperary, just look at Fethard, Thurles, Cashel and the more people who are trained in these traditional skills, the better. These lads can help sustain the style and level of quality in the built environment throughout the county and further afield,” explains course leader Tom Pollard.
“From day one every single one of these lads got stuck in to the course and the interest level was apparent from the off. There's a gap in the market for people who are trained in this type of traditional stonework and whether these lads want to go onto further training or become self employed there is a wide range of opportunities out there right now,” he adds.
The course, which is being funded through Tipperary ETB and contracted through FRS, is running across 15 weeks and such is the success of the programme that Tipperary ETB have announced plans to run the course again next year.
“We’ve been very impressed with the skill level of those taking part in the course to date. We felt there was a demand for a course teaching these traditional stonewalling skills and certainly it will be a significant stepping stone to gaining employment in the area,” Helen Ryan of Tipperary ETB who was on hand to inspect one of the group’s first completed projects - an impressive arched stone wall.
Matt Ryan in action preparing stone for the group's next project. Pic: Eamonn McGee
“It's tough but enjoyable work,” says course member Matt Ryan, who says he was immediately drawn to the course after hearing about it earlier this year.
“I previously worked with Bord na Mona and after it closed in Littleton I didn't want to just sit around. I'd signed up to computer courses and things like that but when I saw this course being offered I jumped at it. It's interesting and you're up skilling all the time,” he adds.