At 10 AM on March 10th 2010, we The Prince of Wales Building Crafts Apprentices came to The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment in London and were graduated by His Royal Highness Prince Charles. There were about 100 guests in attendance, and many of the program instructors were also in attendance. There were boards spread throughout the lobby area describing the work of both the UK and US apprentices, and we spent the time before the ceremony discussing our program with guests and teachers. When Prince Charles arrived, we stood as he was introduced, and then he gave a speech describing his reasons for creating the program and his gratitude for its continuance and success. We were then each called up by name and handed our diplomas as we shook hands with the Prince of Wales. We were not allowed to take pictures during the ceremony, but a professional photographer took photos which I hope to some day see. After the reception, the Prince circulated trough the apprentices and talked with them about their experience. He was, as he is oft reported to be, a very nice and approachable guy. Once he departed, we all went home to change and grab a quick bite, and then met back at the Builder’s Arms pub across from the foundation to celebrate our completion of the program.
Now the future is wide open. The UK apprentices will choose among the job offers they received for builders and contracters looking to utilize their newly gained area of expertise. The New Orleans apprentices go back home and back to work for the last 2 weeks of the program schedule, finishing up the projects we have been working on for the past 5 months. We all hope to use the skills we have gained to help rebuild New Orleans and Louisiana in a better, more sustainable way, but we still face the daunting task of finding employers who want to invest in preservationist expertise. In a world where construction is sought to be done as quickly and cheaply as possible, it is sometimes difficult to convince people of the merit of building to last generations, not just the next 40 years. We New Orleanians live in a beautiful city that is defined by its buildings. These edifices were built one hundred plus years ago and have survived floods and all sorts of weather because they were built by people who took pride in their labor and took the time to do things right, not just “right now.” We, the Prince’s Men, have been given a taste of those skills and that love of labor. I personally am grateful for the knowledge I have been given, but am still thirsty for more. Hopefully the future will continue to provide us with opportunities to learn, build and be proud of our labors. We should all be so lucky.