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Apprentice Lands “Dream Job” in Durham's World Famous Castle

19th Dec 2016
Apprentice Lands “Dream Job” in Durham's World Famous Castle
Apprentice Steven Hay is carving out a new career as a joiner at Durham’s iconic Norman Castle – thanks to a funding package from the city’s freemen. Twenty-nine-year-old Steven beat off stiff competition to win the “chance of a lifetime” – securing a four-year joinery apprenticeship to help with the upkeep of the 11th century fortress.

Steven has joined the woodworking team at Durham University, which owns the castle and is tasked with the upkeep of all the timber within the mediaeval fortification.

The newly created job, with the university’s estates and buildings department, has been made possible by sponsorship of up to £30,000 from the freemen, whose eight surviving trade guilds includes the Joiners’ Company that was established in1661.

For more than three years Durham-born Steven, who now lives in Chester-le-Street, has worked for an international parcel company at Newcastle Airport.

His latest career switch has finally fulfilled his dream of a craft apprenticeship that had eluded him for a decade.

After leaving Framwellgate Moor Comprehensive he completed a one-year construction trades’ course at Gateshead College which he hoped would secure his future. Although the opportunity of a full-time apprenticeship eluded him at that time he never gave up hope.

“The apprenticeship offers Steven the chance of a lifetime. He is an outstanding candidate who we believe has every chance of completing his educational programme ahead of the four-year schedule,” said Stuart Burns, the university’s maintenance services manager.

“The joinery team is a highly skilled reactive service working on Palace Green within the castle, the library and other university buildings in that area. Not surprisingly restoration, preservation and repairs are particularly demanding and have to meet very high standards,” he added.

Work on castle started in 1072 on the express orders of William the Conquerer and today it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which also embraces the cathedral. It is home to University College which has 800 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate students from around the world.

The work on key elements of woodwork within the castle that Steven will tackle as part of his training, includes bespoke crafted windows, doors and panelling.

Steven, engaged to be married to Louise who works in the Durham University Business School, said: “Getting an apprenticeship was something I always wanted. But spending my time working and learning within a world-famous site was never part of the dream. This is a fantastic opportunity.”

Freemen’s leader Eric Bulmer, chairman of the wardens, said: “We are delighted to make a contribution that ensures this World Heritage Site is maintained for the benefit of the people of Durham who are extremely proud of their city.

“Steven will be working on a building that ancestors of some of our current members will have helped maintain across hundreds of years. We look forward to welcoming him into our ranks on the completion of his apprenticeship.”