IHBC Yearbook 2017

R E V I E W 15 INTRODUCTION Paving the way for the 2017 annual school, this edition of the Yearbook explores the theme of infrastructure and its complex implications for our profession. We need to be aware of the challenges and demands which will arise from major infrastructure projects and ensure that we have the skills to deal with them. Like many conservation practitioners, my career in the historic environment stemmed from another profession. While practising as a town planner I found my interest moving towards conservation and urban design. I secured a place on the postgraduate building conservation course at the Architectural Association and the rest, as they say, is history. As others have said, the variety of backgrounds and qualifications that many bring to our profession is one of its great strengths. But times change, and others, who are perhaps more career-focussed than me at an earlier age, are looking to work in conservation without a previous qualification. At the same time, further education is becoming increasingly expensive – prohibitively so for those from less wealthy backgrounds. So what is the answer? Many readers will be aware of recent national media coverage of apprenticeships. Large employers across all industries will be subject to a levy from April 2017 to fund apprenticeships. This certainly has potential for both employers and future recruits to building conservation, and dovetails neatly with the 2017 Yearbook’s theme of infrastructure. For some time the archaeological profession has been concerned that the demand for fieldwork caused by major infrastructure projects, notably HS2, is likely to cause a serious shortage of field archaeologists. Historic England has taken the initiative in this area and brought together employers and others to submit a ‘Trailblazer’ application to register relevant apprenticeship standards with the Department for Education (DfE). Of course, major infrastructure projects need the input of other heritage professionals too. There will be a need for research, evaluation and mitigation proposals affecting listed buildings and conservation areas. In terms of conservation, there are also other major projects to be considered, such as Crossrail 2. The way is now open for other parts of the sector, including conservation practitioners and their employers, to get involved and to develop appropriate standards for apprenticeships. To start with, these standards are likely to be set at graduate level, but if there is a perceived demand they could be set at school-leaver level, which might attract young people with a wider range of backgrounds. However, these are early days, and much needs to be done – first of all in setting appropriate standards that the DfE rightly requires should be related to ‘real jobs’. Second, it is essential to get the right employers from both the public and private sectors on board. Third, the necessary educational programmes need to be set up. A key element of apprenticeships is that 20 per cent of an apprentice’s time should be spent away from the job and in a learning environment. Clearly, there is much for the IHBC and its members to be involved in to keep this on track. Of course, we should not forget existing IHBC members and their need to maintain and improve their skills. This Yearbook is an excellent starting point. The key message that comes over to me is one of integration of skills, whether in multi-disciplinary consultancies or in teams dealing with large projects. From a professional point of view, that certainly rings true. We need to work in a joined-up way while respecting and appreciating each other’s professional skills. That is an issue that came to the fore with the IHBC’s 2016 memorandum of understanding with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. The IHBC through its committees and branches continues to be active in promoting training through national and local CPD events. One planned for later this year which will be relevant to infrastructure is a session on project management run jointly by the Education Training & Standards committee and IHBC North branch. But before then there is what promises to be an excellent and inspiring annual school on transport infrastructure which will have four sub-themes: railways, water, roads and air. It will take place on June 22–24 in the ‘beating heart of the Northern Powerhouse’, Manchester. I look forward to re-visiting it and, I hope, meeting many Yearbook readers there. DavidMcDonald, president@ihbc.org.uk IHBC president David McDonald presents Samantha Stones with the Gus Astley Award at the 2016 IHBC annual school