News. Apprenticeships at Dumfries House

13th of February, 2017

“I grew up with my dad telling me to always find solutions, not problems,” says Johnny Briggs. It’s a philosophy that often proves the most useful tool in his locker when it comes to mentoring students for the Prince’s Foundation’s Building Craft Apprenticeship.

Briggs undertook the apprenticeship himself back in 2011. “My tutor told me about it in college, so all through the three years it was something to aim towards,” he says. “Because it’s difficult to get on to the course, I did extra-curricular activities, rather than just the standard things for my NVQ. I asked to do more intricate joinery and building to challenge myself and build up my portfolio. In my third year I worked for the Duke of Devonshire on the Bolton Abbey estate and renovated a small barn. I think that clinched it.”

Briggs was 24 when he joined the programme, and has never looked back. “I really enjoyed the whole process, and did more of the project management side than the actual building,” he says of the experience. “When I’d finished my time as an apprentice, the following year I was asked back to manage and teach in the following year’s course – and that was the Live Build on the summer school here. I was then asked privately to design and build an oak-framed, thatched structure that sits near the main house. Since then it’s been a steady flow of projects, all increasing in size, leading up to this one.”

These days, Briggs regularly employs alumni of the foundation at his own joinery company. “This course creates a great network of people for you,” he says. His longer-term aim is to establish his own saw mill and a fixed base. All who have watched Briggs’ progress have no doubts as to whether he’ll accomplish these goals. “Johnny’s done a lot of work on the estate, including designing the pagoda in the Rothesay gardens,” says Gordon Neil. “He has a very good reputation. He’s organised, methodical, and likes to know exactly what’s happening before he strikes a blow. We put a lot of trust in him to do the main farm building, but he was more than capable and produced a very high-quality product.”