The mission of the OPW Heritage Service is to conserve and protect the built Heritage in the care of the State and to manage the natural and man-made collections, buildings, landscapes and artefacts entrusted to our care. Through interpretation, education and engagement with visitors and the wider public, we aim to inspire a strong ethos of respect for our heritage and a desire for its protection.
The bulk of the conservation and restoration work undertaken at National Monuments in State care is carried out by the OPW’s direct labour force, operating from six regional depots at Athenry, Dromahair, Killarney, Kilkenny, Mallow and Trim. The Works Manager in each of these locations is in charge of a highly-skilled team of craft, trade and general operatives. These dedicated men and women are the front line in terms of preserving and protecting our National Monuments. They are passionate about their work and the extraordinary places they care for. They are the people who get the chance to make their mark on our country’s most iconic and significant monuments.
While always open to new techniques, best conservation practice dictates that, for authenticity, the skills used to preserve a structure should reflect those used at the particular period in history when the structure was first erected. The OPW recognises the importance of handing on traditional skills and experience and our Apprenticeship Scheme for stonemasons, stonecutters and carpenters offers the opportunity to develop a unique set of skills to ensure that the expertise necessary to maintain our National Monuments into the future is retained and developed.
The National Monuments Apprenticeship Programme has been developed by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority in Ireland who has statutory responsibility for its management. The programme follows a modular pattern, taking four years to complete. It is divided into two elements, on-the-job training where the Apprentices get an opportunity to work on-site perfecting their skills while off-the-job training, delivered by Institutes of Technology and Education and Training Boards Ireland, concentrates more on theory.
Apprentices are trained in a wide range of work activities. Our stonemasons and stonecutters are trained in such areas as the finishing, engraving and restoration of stone. Carpenters receive similar training in the setting out, production and assembly of joinery and receive specific training on the traditional aspects of conservation carpentry.
The National Monuments Apprentices learn the basics of their craft in a college-based environment which they then bring with them to their on-the-job training.
Meet some of our current and recently qualified apprentices and their mentors over the course of Heritage Week 2020.