A SKIPTON teenager’s ambition to build a career in dry stone walling is now being fulfilled, thanks to an apprenticeship award.

David Da Costa, 17, is spending his year-long apprenticeship working alongside master craftsman Philip Dolphin, who is based in Craven.

His place is being funded by educational charity, The Ernest Cook Trust, following an approach by the Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA).

Without the apprenticeship, David, who does not have a farming background, says it would have been difficult to find an opening.

But David, who loves being outside and over the last few years has studied drystone walls, looking at how they are built, is showing promise, and hopes to one day set up a business of his own.

He said: “I don’t come from a farming family but I really love the outdoors.

“I’ve been taking photos out and about for four years now and every time I go out, I love to look at the dry stone walls and question how they were made.”

David was given the opportunity to attend a trial day with Mr Dolphin and discovered he really liked it.

“Since I started the apprenticeship, I’ve found it’s really enjoyable and I am learning a lot,” he said.

“Some days can be challenging, because selecting dry stone can be a struggle, but when it goes well it is very satisfying.”

David is convinced that without the award from The Ernest Cook Trust, made as part of its Outdoor Futures Grant programme, he would not have had an opportunity for a dry stone walling career.

He said: “I don’t think it would have happened otherwise, but everything came together. I started talking to Phil, he was happy to take me on, and then this apprenticeship made it possible.”

The Ernest Cook Trust is a UK-wide educational charity, which creates outdoor learning experiences for children, young people and their families, on its own estates and with partner estates across the country.

Suzie Paton, head of grants at the trust, said: “It can be difficult for young people to get into these traditional crafts, especially if they don’t come from a farming background, so with our two Platinum Jubilee Awards we wanted to open up new opportunities.”

Kate Dymock, training and education coordinator for the Dry Stone Walling Association, said the organisation was keen to help make sure traditional crafts were kept alive.

She said: “One of our key aims is to promote the knowledge and understanding of this traditional craft, and to try and get young people on board so we keep that knowledge going through the generations.

“This is why the Platinum Jubilee Award from The Ernest Cook Trust is invaluable and we are very grateful that, thanks to this, we will be able to fund three apprentices.”

During David’s year he will attain his level-1 and level-2 qualifications accredited with the DSWA and awarding body for land-based industries, Lantra. This will enable David to become a professional dry stone waller.

David hopes the apprenticeship will lead to him eventually setting up his own business.

David said: “It’s already a massive privilege to work with Phil, so I’d like to stay with him for a bit longer to learn more, then eventually set up on my own.”

Two months into the role, Philip is impressed with David’s work so far.

“David is my first official apprentice, although I have had youngsters work with me before, but they have come from a farming background. David is completely new to it, but he is doing very well,” he said.

The Ernest Cook Trust is funding two further apprenticeships through the DSWA, one starting next year and another in 2024.

In total the funding, worth £15,000 a year for three years, is one of two Platinum Jubilee Awards being made by the Trust to mark its 70th anniversary.

The other, also worth £15,000 a year for three years, has been made to the National Hedgelaying Society, again to fund apprentices.

For more information about The Ernest Cook Trust visit https://ernestcooktrust.org.uk/.

For more about the Dry Stone Walling Association and apprenticeship opportunities, visit https://www.dswa.org.uk/.

For the National Hedgelaying Society, and its apprenticeship opportunities, visit https://www.hedgelaying.org.uk/.