The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain launched its Craftsman Certification Scheme way back in the 1980’s making it the first organisation to offer formal qualifications in dry stone walling. Since then the scheme has flourished and developed in to what is still the most respected and coveted craft certification scheme available in dry stone walling. The DSWA GB certification scheme offers a progressive suite of qualifications starting at Initial (level 1) at entry level, progressing to Intermediate (level 2 ) and then on to Advanced ( level 3 ) culminating with the Master Craftsman Certificate, the highest qualification available in the craft of dry stone walling. The DSWA GB certification scheme is operated throughout the UK, the association has also trained examiners working in the USA and Canada. Many overseas wallers also travel to the UK to take advantage of the scheme, some of these craftsmen have travelled from as far afield as Australia and more recently Japan. Other walling organisations have also turned to the DSWA GB for advice when wanting to create their own certification schemes, notably the DSC in Kentucky and the ABPS in France both used the DSWA scheme as a blue print when formulating their own schemes.
The DSWA GB Craftsman Certification Scheme is administered by the Craft Skills Committee; this consists of a chairman, the DSWA training and education officer, three DSWA examiners, a representative from an agricultural college (that offers dry stone walling on their syllabus), a representative from LANTRA ( the DSWA’s awarding body in the UK) and myself as the DSWA’s chief examiner. This group is responsible for all the day to day running of the scheme through the DSWA office. Most of the work the committee undertakes relates to updating the scheme , dealing with queries from candidates and test centres and managing the pool of forty or so examiners. The main objective being that every test carried out should be fair and even so all candidates stand on a level playing field irrespective of whether the test is carried out in Yorkshire or the Cotswolds or indeed the UK or the USA. The craft skills committee is answerable directly to the Board of Trustees of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.
Over the course of the next few weeks I will cover the four levels of the DSWA certification scheme in an effort to demystify the process and give an insight into how the scheme works and maybe what the examiners are looking for. Be warned though these are only my thoughts and opinions, there are no short cuts to success, no secrets to learn just lots of hard work and commitment. Being a progressive scheme the tests obviously become harder the further one travels; this is the whole point they are not meant to be easy, each level is something to aspire to, an obstacle to overcome. The craft skills committee has been approached in the past to reduce the amount of wall required in each test or to remove the timed element of the tests, but these are the crucial elements. The tests all demonstrate that if successful the candidate can produce a set amount of work, to a preset standard ,in a set amount of time. I feel this is essential in a practical, professional qualification as one has to prove one cost effective and therefore commercially viable.
Next time I will deal with the Initial Certificate or Level 1 as it is sometimes called in the UK, this is the easiest of all the DSWA craft tests but by no means a give away.