Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Lack of Skills Putting Historic Buildings at Risk
Is a lack of traditional skills putting our heritage at risk? As stone masonry, thatch roofing and restoration skills fall, the demand on existing skilled workers increases, putting the health of our historic buildings at risk.
The building heritage sector is a subset of the main construction industry and it is this niche sector that must attract suitably skilled workers. Bricklaying, carpentry, leadworking and stonemasonry are the areas most in need of an inflow of skilled workers, if estimated demand is to be met, with other dwindling trades including dry stone walling, thatchers, millwrighting and cob walling. The existing workforce is an ageing one and if these vital skills are to be continued existing craftsmen will need to attract apprentices to train and safeguard the future of these trades and crafts. Many entrants into the heritage building sector have trained on the job in the construction industry and learnt over many years the traditional skills passed down from their mentors. They have then re-applied their skills and made the transition into maintaining and restoring historic buildings. The survival of these skills is imperative as is the transfer of knowledge between traditional buildings craftspeople and trades within the new build sector.
What separates the traditional building sector from the modern construction industry is the knowledge and understanding of the original construction materials, the methods of workmanship and the need to preserve and retain as much of the original fabric as possible. Where replacement work is necessary it is undertaken in a sensitive and considered manner in order to preserve the historical balance.
The need for the right training and qualifications has been identified as a high priority. A wide range of training courses exist for contractors and craftspeople of all levels of experience:
CSkills Awards Level 3 Award in Understanding Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Buildings is a two day course which introduces participants to the principles, methods and materials used in building conservation.
Short duration training to reach level 3 can be gained through the Heritage Specialist Apprenticeship Programme.
National Heritage Training Group
Heritage Specialist Apprenticeship Programme.