IHBC Yearbook 2013

R E V I E W 19 OUR RESPONSIBILITY RAY ROBERTSON, NATIONAL HERITAGE TRAINING GROUP CHAIR The UK enjoys the economic benefits of millions of visitors every year who admire its architectural diversity and character. We have a responsibility to pass this glorious inheritance on intact, which means that the craft skills used to create it must similarly be preserved and nurtured. We can no longer rely on those skills being passed down through generations of the same family, or on each community supporting its own carpenter, blacksmith and stonemason. Regional and national organisations now take the place of yesterday’s communities and accept the responsibility of preserving traditional building crafts. It is a responsibility that the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) and its supporters such as the IHBC take very seriously indeed. Funded by ConstructionSkills and a collective of national heritage organisations including English Heritage, Historic Scotland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the NHTG also draws support from organisations such as Cadw, the National Trust, Conference on Training in Architectural Conservation and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. In #$%% the NHTG secured the largest project funded under the HLF Skills for the Future initiative and it has since developed a number of work placements and bursaries for trainees across the country through a network of regional co-ordinators under its Building Traditional Skills (BTS) programme (see page #0). Although the traditional craft and contractor federations, supported by the union UNITE, have always been members of the NHTG, a recent reorganisation has brought them further to the fore in determining the NHTG’s priorities. The restructured NHTG is focussed through its training committee on craft skills apprenticeship programmes, heritage awareness courses, qualifications and SUPs (Specialist Up-skilling Programmes) among a number of other initiatives being developed alongside the BTS programme. These are designed to ensure that the skills and knowledge of fast-disappearing generations of craftspeople can be recovered and reinvested in the next generation of conservators. However, if we do not get the required level of commitment from the heritage agencies, client bodies, property owners, local authorities and government departments that are responsible for our traditional buildings, we could end up with a well-trained but unemployed workforce. The NHTG is pressing those responsible for the upkeep of our traditional buildings to reject the short-term cost expediency approach. The challenge is to replace this with one geared to longterm value for money, achieved by employing only those with the right skills and knowledge. The NHTG is taking on this challenge and using new initiatives to engage with those responsible for the traditionally built environment. The NHTG will be campaigning for wider recognition and uptake of the CSCS Heritage Skills card, which provides evidence that a contractor is experienced and competent. English Heritage already specifies exclusive use of Heritage Skills cardholders for significant leadwork projects, but this needs to be extended. A memorandum of understanding committing to a Heritage Skills carded workforce (contractors and professionals) to work on pre-%&%& building projects was signed in #$$& by the All Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group, a commitment the NHTG is determined to revive. Because there may not be enough cardholders in some trades, the NHTG will work with craft federations to set up assessment programmes to enable experienced but unqualified craftspeople to gain their cards through a practical assessment process. A heritage skills register is also being created and will appear on the NHTG website, enabling experienced contractors to be easily identified and sourced by clients. The introduction of works and training contracts that require the use of apprentices on grantaided projects is another NHTG objective, as is the circulation of its ‘Question of Quality’ document. This poses a series of questions for architects, clients, contractors and funding providers helping them to ensure that the correct materials and labour are determined and used for traditional building projects. The NHTG, together with its partners, is determined to continue the commitment to raise standards in traditional building conservation. It is committed to campaigning for the preservation and use of the knowledge and skills needed to protect our architectural inheritance. It is an uncompromising commitment to ensure that those who live in and visit these islands can continue to appreciate the centuries of vision, creativity and skill that have made for such a uniquely diverse built environment.