From Acorns, do mighty oaks grow?

You may already be aware that the Gunsmith apprentice standard has been approved by the Government’s Institute for Apprenticeships. I view this as quite an achievement, as nothing like it has ever been attempted before and the interests of the future of British gun making, for which I care deeply, are at stake.

The Gunsmiths Academy will enable learning, skills and innovation which have always been at the core of British gun making in this country to remain.

The initial interest from within the industry has given way to torpor. This may in some part be due to Brexit insecurities and its impact on our home market, foreign sales and business confidence within the trade. But, I would observe that the problem of a domestic skills shortage will only be exacerbated by the lack of engagement now, regardless of the immediate concerns surrounding Brexit.

Our European competitors saw the writing on the wall and established trade apprenticeships long ago. Do you see even the slightest exodus of skill from the British trade flooding to Europe? No, we have resorted to branding foreign guns as British and abandoned making them in the most part. Only the Best guns are left to be made here for the tiniest proportion of the market and in ever diminishing numbers. Let us focus on the ability to serve the mid-range and above segments of the market and invest in the skills it takes to produce guns in volume here in the UK and offer true competition to Italian, Spanish and generally European guns.

The lack of commitment from the industry poses problems in regard to the way the Academy is structured. Without the employment of Apprentices, there is no funding from the Government to pay for trainers and equipment.

In the words of Winston Churchill;

Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.

The reason for the incarnation of the Gunsmith Apprenticeship was initially out of a requirement in our business (W Horton & Sons); and our desire to re-establish our own gun making ability back in Birmingham where we have traded since 1750. To do that, we needed the right people to create artisans for our future. In my opinion that skill set is not necessarily just a recreation of techniques utilised 100 years ago, but is inclusion of modern engineering methods to compliment the long-established techniques which make British guns unique and un-rivalled. To that end we have taken on three apprentices (Jake, Ewan and Conor) who have already begun a 13 month full-time engineering/machining course as part of the foundation of the Gunsmith Apprenticeship. Next October they will join us in Birmingham to apply those skills in the refurbishment and remanufacturing of old English guns whilst on day release to gain an advanced engineering qualification.

The Gunsmith Academy is already delivering on its promise to supply the trade with valuable skilled domestic labour. It just so happens that the only students currently in training are destined for W Horton & Sons.

As ever, any business wishing to take on an apprentice can contact me at any time and I will happily work with them in the most flexible way possible to suit their requirements. We must continue to make the finest guns in the World and to make them together, in the UK as together we are the British gun making trade and must feel the weight of history on our shoulders.

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