IHBC Yearbook 2011

24 Y e a r b o o k 2 0 1 1 is essential, as is an aptitude to influence, advise and motivate colleagues working together. A conservation officer should be fluent in expressing design ideas, constraints and philosophy with an open-minded attitude and the capability to negotiate under pressure from stakeholders with often divergent views. Above all, the conservation officer is an ambassador for the historic environment. While qualifications don’t take precedence over ability, the qualifications sought for a conservation officer would be an honours degree and/or specialist qualification in conservation and full membership of the IHBC or evidence that the candidate is working towards it. A senior member should have an honours degree or equivalent and be a full member of the IHBC and ideally the RTPI, RIBA or RICS with a minimum of seven years post-qualification experience and a specialist qualification in conservation and/or urban design. The evidence-based competencies for IHBC membership provide confidence for employers in the abilities of those holding full membership. At junior level, officers must at least be working towards membership of the institute, while full membership is required of senior officers. The strength in our institute comes from the diverse range of professional backgrounds it encompasses; this multi-disciplinary profile allows support to other conservation colleagues whose specialties are perhaps in other fields. The benefit to the team is that the conservation officer may have taken a number of different career paths: planner, architect, archaeologist, historian, engineer, trade background, or even a combination, and this is valued. To some extent, the conservation officer will need to be a jack of all trades to promote sustainability in the context of sensitive and sometimes vulnerable structures and sites. A key role for conservation officers is raising awareness in others regarding our historic environment and the traditional crafts and materials used to create it. This can evolve into hands-on training for owners and agents and, most importantly, interested youngsters who will be the future owners and practitioners. The thrill associated with experimental archaeology and practising traditional crafts is evident to all involved. This can be an extremely rewarding aspect of the role, particularly when it leads to students following a career in the heritage sector inspired by that early contact. Each member of the conservation team is expected to take a lead and look for opportunities to expand our outreach. Although less likely now than in the past, it is still possible to ‘grow your own’ conservation officer in-house perhaps from an unrelated career path. Providing the individual’s positive attitude and enthusiasm are evident, there is still the opportunity to learn on the job in a 21st century equivalent to being articled by obtaining a postgraduate qualification in conservation while carrying out the role of conservation officer. The new localism agenda will demand a conservation service that is approachable to all stakeholders. To remain relevant, it will need to be proactive in facilitating conservation and economic urban and rural regeneration. Providing conservation advice to community organisations to support the development of parish plans, village design statements will require a willingness to think and work outside the box. With the limited availability of grant funding, plugging the heritage deficit will need an entrepreneurial approach from the conservation officer, who may need to take on the role of project manager, setting up the project and identifying the possible funding streams. Conservation officers need to continuously adapt and learn, especially from other experts in the field. Continuing professional development is no less important for conservation officers than other professions and the IHBC provides a primary role at branch and national levels. However, the interests of each individual must be encouraged and incorporated where possible into his or her training programme. Each conservation officer and conservation professional is an individual with unique skills and abilities and therein lays the strength of our institute. Philip Belchere BA(Hons) MA Dipl Arch Dip UD Dip Cons RIBA IHBC is conservation and design team leader for Shropshire Council and chair of the West Midlands branch of the IHBC. He is a chartered architect accredited in building conservation (AABC) and is an RIBA specialist conservation architect. Before becoming a conservation officer in 2006, he was in private practice for more than 25 years. Local construction diploma students attend a training day at Blakemoorgate