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Variety the spice of life for SkillBuild finalist Marlène

Swiftly gaining skills in every aspect of a trade is what being an apprentice is all about.

SkillBuild finalist Marlène Lagnado is a fine example of the benefits of apprenticeships - and the opportunities construction offers.

Stonemasonry apprentice Marlène, 26, blends her studies at York College with working for Matthias Garn Master Mason and Partner.

Marlène’s flourishing skills are paying off.

In November she will travel to Edinburgh for SkillBuild 22, a competition described as "construction's Olympics".

Delivered by the Construction Industry Training Board, SkillBuild is the largest UK multi-trade skills competition for construction trainees and apprentices.

Marlène progressed to the finals via a virtual heat in May.

Now she has Edinburgh, and a dream of working in Europe, in her sights.


"I am lucky to work in an amazing conservation company," says Marlène.

"We have various sites, mainly churches around the East Riding of Yorkshire. I am either in the workshop, working on banker masonry for a new stone for a job, or on site where I fix complex masonry, repair stones or point and limewash.

"I get to touch every subject of the trade."

The scope of Marlène's work means she is constantly challenged, a process that’s seeing her gain an impressive skillset.

"It's difficult to say if I prefer masonry or fixing on site. I like the variety of the job,” she says.

"Banker masonry asks for skills including patience, practice and deep focus.

“I also love the fact that I work on different sites as it helps me improve my understanding of buildings’ history and architecture, along with enhancing my conservation skills.”

Marlène, who was nominated for SkillBuild by her college tutor Paul Hill, challenges herself to produce fast, precise work, a tricky skill when all aspects of stonemasonry are considered.

“The hardest part of being an apprentice is to assimilate all the knowledge needed in the trade,” she reflects.

“I understand it will take years after the apprenticeship is completed before I will feel like a qualified mason. There is so much to learn and experience.”


Marlène is full of praise for her bosses at Matthias Garn Master Mason and Partner.

"My foreman, David Switalla, is extremely supportive," says Marlene.

"The company treats apprentices well. The masters understand the importance of sharing their knowledge. They want apprentices to learn as much as they can and to get the best training.

"I am often offered work on masonry pieces that are rarely given to apprentices. I am also sent to sites with close tutoring to learn more about the trade."


Marlène says that although she enjoys working to tight deadlines, she has found SkillBuild challenging.

"I have never worked under such tight time restrictions," she says.

“I had a lot of fun in the morning of the heats, trying to understand the drawing, making templates and thinking of the different steps. In the afternoon I got a bit stressed about the time pressure. It disturbed my focus and slowed me down.”

Marlène says that competing in SkillBuild will improve her confidence and make her a better stonemason in what promises to be a colourful, well-travelled career,

"I would like a fellowship at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings,” she says. “I would also like to go on a journey where I will work in various companies around Europe.”

Interested in becoming a Stonemason? Trained stonemasons with experience can earn £25,000 - £35,000. Our Go Construct website has all the info you need.

After sailing through their regional qualifiers, Marlène will compete with over 85 finalists in the finals of SkillBuild 2022. Described as “the UK’s construction’s Olympics”, SkillBuild will be delivered by CITB in conjunction with WorldSkills and will take place at Edinburgh College from November 14–17.

Stonemasonry apprentice Marlène’s dream is to work for various companies across Europe.