Foundation Programme: An Interview with Alexander Wood
Alexander Wood represented the UK at the WorldSkills Finals in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and earned a Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Award in 2018. He is now a Goldsmiths’ Company apprentice at N Groves Ltd, and spoke to us this week about where his highly promising career began - on the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s Foundation Programme.
How did you first hear about the Goldsmiths’ Centre?
I heard about it through a family friend. I was working in his workshop one day a week for about six weeks, just to get an idea of the trade, and he told me that the best way to break into the industry was to apply to the Centre, because it was the best training provider in London and the South East. So I went for it.
Is there anything unique about being an apprentice at N Groves Ltd?
The tuition is quite unique, because it’s one-on-one, me and the boss working together, with him giving me his full attention. If I need to ask him anything, I can. I work on engagement rings, wedding rings - anything that comes through the workshop.
What inspires you creatively?
The people I work with are at a high level in the trade so I look up to them, and I get to see lots of high quality jewellery pieces, so that’s often quite inspiring. Otherwise inspiration can come from anywhere - like architecture, flowers, nature in general.
Can you highlight one memorable moment of your time on the Foundation Programme?
Being chosen to represent the UK at the WorldSkills Finals at Abu Dhabi in 2017. I was awarded a Medallion of Excellence - and I got a free ten-day holiday!
How do your family and friends feel about your choice of career?
They love it, especially my mum, because she gets lots of free jewellery! Everyone is extremely supportive of it, and because it’s quite a niche industry, as soon as you tell someone what you do for a living, they’re interested and asking about it. That helps to get your name out there, and it also gets the word out about the jewellery industry as well.
What’s next for you?
The plan is to continue where I am currently for a few years, to keep on learning. In the future I’d like to work in London, hopefully open my own business and maybe eventually move abroad to work. As much as I love the trade here in Britain, I have my sights set on sunnier climates.
Did your experiences at WorldSkills in Abu Dhabi inspire your plan to work abroad?
Yes definitely, it just gave me insight into jewellery from all over the world, made by all different nationalities.
Would you recommend the Foundation Programme to other aspiring tradespeople?
Definitely. The programme was the foot-up I needed to get into the industry. It helps you to decide whether the trade is for you, and what area you want to focus on, because you get to try a bit of everything.
Of all the specialisms you studied whilst on the Foundation Programme, why were you most attracted to diamond mounting?
The main reason I was attracted towards becoming a diamond mounter, over any of the other sub departments within our trade, is the variety of work you get to work on. Everyday I get to create a piece of art which is completely different to the day before. It’s also the foundations of the piece and with help from setters, polishers etc. you end up with a beautiful piece of jewellery which can be seen as a technically skilled piece to tradesmen and a wearable piece of art to those outside of the trade.
How has the Goldsmiths’ Centre impacted your life and career overall?
The Centre has really affected my life in a positive way. They’ve offered me a lot of support and opportunities, not just through the programme but also during the World Skills competition and through Day Release training. That has introduced me to other aspects of the trade that I wouldn’t otherwise get experience in, like setting for example - even though I work with setters, it’s not something that I do in my usual work.
What advice would you give to others interested in entering the industry?
You’ve got to really push yourself, push through all the boundaries and then keep at it. Once you’re in the trade, you’ll see how worth the work it is.
Applications for 2019/2020 close on Sunday 5 May 2019. Interested in applying for our Foundation Programme course? Find out more information here.