Czech govt aims to reintroduce ‘master craftsman’ qualification scrapped in 1949

Finding a good bricklayer, carpenter, roofer has long been a challenge in the Czech Republic. By some estimates, the domestic market lacks over 300,000 such craftsmen, leading companies to recruit workers from abroad, in particular from Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. To address the chronic shortage of qualified labour, the government has proposed reintroducing “Master of Crafts” exam.

Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček presented the government’s proposal at a press conference last week. He told reporters that the aim is twofold: to make it easier for contractors to identify quality craftsmen and restore the “prestige” association with such trades.

“This would be a kind of craftsmen's ‘doctorate’, the highest possible award, which would be voluntary. This means that it will not negatively affect the number of craftsmen or qualified workers who go into these professions. But it will also be a mark of the highest quality, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by both the professional public and clients.”

The Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic has for years been lobbying for introducing a Master of Crafts qualification, reviving “an interrupted tradition that had worked successfully for centuries” but was scrapped in 1949.

Apart from bringing back a qualification that would help Czech contractors, public authorities and everyday people identify capable craftsmen, the Master of Crafts exam would enable trade schools to employ qualified teachers, and Czech craftsmen to enter foreign markets, the Chamber of Commerce argues.

Karel Havlíček | Photo: Prokop Havel,  Czech Radio

According to Minister Havlíček, there are already several hundred applicants, and although the government’s proposal has yet to be even debated in the lower house of Parliament, he expects it to be adopted without objection. But how will the “master’s exam” actually work?

“A craftsman will have to prove that he is able to create a masterpiece in collaboration with his guild, that he is able to direct the necessary preparation for such a work, for example by managing several employees, and at the same time that he is able to control costs, manage a budget.”

The Chamber of Commerce estimates that an average of 2,000 people a year would sit for a Master of Crafts exam, over the first five years after the qualification process is introduced.

Candidates should have already attained an education in their relative field, for example at a vocational high school, and have accumulated at least five years’ of practical experience in the previous ten years. Candidates would also have to pay on average of 25,000 crowns to sit the exam, it would be a tax deductible expense.

Among the craftsmen interested in sitting for a Master of Crafts exam is the professional indoor house painter Petr Maleček. He told Czech Television that he is already working on educating himself, building on his practical experience.

“I’m definitely in favour of a having master’s exam. It should be a guarantee for the customer that he’s really calling in an expert who knows his craft.”

According to the government’s proposal, a public register of Master of Crafts holders will be established, to be administered by the Chamber of Commerce and published on its website, as well as on those of relevant ministries.