Recent research by the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) into the skills needs of the built heritage sector for England, Scotland and Wales has revealed some alarming statistics of shortages of traditional building skilled workers.
At present only about 86,000 people are currently working in the built heritage sector and yet there are estimated to be 500,000 listed buildings (as being of architectural interest) and some 4.9 million historic buildings (defined as being built before 1919) and in danger of falling into disrepair in England alone!
Over £3.5 billion per year is spent on conservation and restoration of historic buildings, based on latest available research in 2004. However many of the specialist skills needed to preserve these buildings are in decline, with some in severe danger of dying out completely. It is estimated that as many as 6,500 skilled new entrants are required each year to meet demand. This lack of appropriately skilled crafts people is putting our historic buildings at risk.
The ten main specialist skills that are most likely to be used on historic building work are as follows:
· bricklaying and craft masonry
· carpentry and joinery
· lead working
· painting and decorating
· roof slating and tiling
and in addition there are further specialisms within each craft.
Our built heritage bears witness to centuries of human skill and ingenuity and today we have the challenge of keeping the skills alive so that we can continue to conserve and maintain our vast range of historic properties by using the relevant traditional craft skills and working sympathetically with the original materials. More people are needed to become skilled in these crafts and help us to preserve our historic buildings for future generations.