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.

Apprenticeship standard approved

The Gunsmith apprenticeship standard is finally approved. Now while what you see in the link below is a couple of pages of text, the work behind getting to this point cannot be underestimated. It has taken weeks of hard work and meetings with the department of education to get this over the line. There has NEVER been a government funded Gunsmithing school in the UK, this is changing and will soon be realised. I’d like to personally thank Graham Greener, Gary Clarke (ex Boss), Tony White, Marc Newton (Rigby), Pete Boxall, James Edminston and the guys at Viking Arms for the support up to this point. BASC have also now pledged support.

The next step is to finalise the end point assessment, which in short allows apprentices to be graded against the standard.

To reiterate this means training costs to employed apprentices is at no cost to the employer. A meeting is also planned with GCCT (Gunmakers Company Charitable Trust) that will make it even more compelling for a business in the sector to take an apprentice. NO BUSINESS CAN GROW WITHOUT THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

The Gunsmith Academy is brand agnostic and being set-up for the benefit of the wider trade. It is my belief that this is the best opportunity presented to the UK Gun trade to revive itself for a very long time. It is gathering pace week on week and as such I (Steve Horton) have decided to scale back my own business (W Horton & Sons) to by appointment only from 1st June (for a period of time) to take up an unpaid position of Principal of the Gunsmith Academy to ensure it has the best start.

I’m interested in hearing from businesses within the sector who would like an apprentice (potentially at zero cost), people who would be interested in becoming a trainer (full or part time) and also young people who wish to become an apprentice.

You can reach me on email at . For those who have already made contact I will be coming back to you the first week in June. Start date for Apprentices will be September 2018.

You can read the published Gunsmith Apprenticeship Standard here