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Holts Academy

Category: Education

Mission: Prepare young people for a career in the jewellery trade

Hatton Garden has been home to the London jewellery trade since medieval times. Yet only ten years ago, the industry was on the brink of disappearing altogether.

The saviour of Hatton Garden is Jason Holt – one the first beneficiaries of the Coutts Cranfield bursary, set up to help social entrepreneurs participate in the Cranfield Business Growth Programme. In 1999, Holt founded Holts Academy, a not-for-profit educational establishment dedicated to bringing young people into the jewellery trade.

Today, more than 800 pupils a year learn to cut diamonds, string beads and use all the modern equipment used in the profession. Courses vary from introductory sessions to a full NVQ in jewellery manufacture. The flow of skilled craftsmen graduating from Holts Academy has revived the trade, resurrecting the UK’s international reputation for jewellery design.

Holt says his motivation was purely altruistic. “I was a solicitor at a City law firm, and I decided that career wasn’t going to float my 
boat. My family had a gem-cutting business, a lapidary, in Hatton Garden, but before I joined the family firm, I promised myself I’d do something different; something that added value to the community. The industry had such a shortage of skills that an academy made sense.”

He says social enterprise education provision could help revive other UK professions. “Any trade that requires craftsmen and expertise could benefit from their own academy. Luxury goods would be ideal.”

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