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Heritage Labour Market

The historic environment is reliant on a skilled and experienced workforce to properly care for, conserve and manage it.

To ensure we maintain and develop the skills we need in the historic environment workforce and meet the demands placed upon it now and in the future, labour market research will help us understand:

  • The current composition of the historic environment and broader heritage workforce to look at who is doing what
  • Skills supply and demand to look at the size of the workforce, what skills they have and what will be required of the workforce in the future
  • Skills shortages and gaps to identify if we have enough people to do the work and do they have all the skills required
  • The career pathways in to the historic environment sector to look at how people join the workforce and progress in their career, as well as any barriers or challenges

Recently published reports

Survey of the Archaeological Market 2017

This project  gives a picture of the State of the Market for Archaeological Services in the United Kingdom in 2016-17. It was prepared by Landward Research Ltd on behalf of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), FAME (Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers) and Historic England.

The survey gathered data via a questionnaire sent to FAME members and CIfA Registered Organisations, therefore the focus is primarily on the commercial archaeology sector. In addition, some limited subsidiary data has been examined for the numbers of archaeologists employed by planning authorities.

You can download the analysis of responses in the resulting report.

Archaeological specialists

The national heritage agencies including Historic England commissioned Landward Research to carry out a survey of historic environment archaeological specialists, building on the work that was undertaken in 2010. We aimed to find out more about the distribution of specialists, their working environments, their training needs and opportunities, and their thoughts on the future.
Download the full report

Buildings history and gardens history

Buildings History is defined as the study of buildings and their structural and stylistic evolution. It uses techniques from archaeology, architectural history and science based disciplines to analyse and define the structural changes to historic buildings and how they were used over time.
This survey was carried out to establish the level of current activity in architectural history, buildings history and buildings archaeology. It also looks at the state of current training provision and the likely future market for practitioners of buildings history.
Download the full report


You can download a summary of some of the existing heritage labour market research with a synopsis of the recommendations from these reports.

How big is the heritage workforce?

There are approximately 5.5 million traditional (pre-1919) buildings in England, it is important to consider who and how we will maintain these buildings in the future.

Key research and publications include:

Skills provisions in local authorities (2013)

Research was conducted by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) to understand where skills gaps exist for specialist historic environment staff in local authorities, and their preferred methods for developing skills.

The research highlighted a number of areas where local authority staff felt they were lacking awareness and knowledge. These included condition assessment, recording and information management, and finance.

Traditional building skills (2013)

The construction industry, which includes the built heritage sector, changed dramatically following the recession in 2007.

Research undertaken in 2013 was designed to give an updated and comprehensive perspective on the supply of and demand for traditional building skills. This includes identifying skills gaps and determining areas of recruitment difficulty.

Findings include:

  • 5.5 million traditional (pre-1919) buildings in England.
  • £3.8 billion spent on work on traditional buildings in 2012.
  • 89% of contractors are general construction companies, 87% do not hold formal qualifications relating to traditional buildings.

A Skills Action Plan was agreed as a result of the research to address the key issues. It focuses on the continued need to increase client demand, and improve the training and qualifications available.

Cultural heritage skills survey (2013)

To complement the traditional buildings market research, a study was commissioned to examine cultural heritage skills more closely. The Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage Skills Survey focused on the workforce and individuals. Four sub-sectors of the heritage sector were defined:

  • Archaeology
  • Conservation
  • Cultural heritage institutions
  • Planning and other related services

The research provides evidence on where there are gaps in particular individual skills, the development of existing staff and figures on employment.

  • 66% of cultural heritage employers successfully recruited new staff 2010-2013.
  • 42% of respondents believed their organisation was lacking skills.
  • Interestingly, key skills gaps include management, marketing and IT/digital experience.

Historic and botanic garden skills

Research into the careers, occupations and skills required for the conservation and management of historic and botanic gardens include:

Built heritage sector professionals (2008)

The National Heritage Training Group highlighted a shortage of conservation professionals with the necessary skills to maintain traditional buildings in this research.

The action plan calls for Sector Skills Councils, professional bodies, heritage agencies and training providers to work together to strengthen traditional building skills. This includes educating clients about the value and importance of using traditional building methods and materials.

Read the report

Architectural conservators research (2006)

A large segment of the current generation of active conservators will be retiring over the next 10 years.

Research was commissioned to address concerns over whether there will be a sufficient number of qualified and experienced conservators in the future.

After conducting in-depth interviews with training institutions, employers and practitioners, key findings include:

  • Competitive tendering seen by many as a bureaucratic burden, at times a disincentive to maintaining high standards of conservation skills.
  • Profession is largely dominated by white males. While more females are entering there is no ethnic diversity.
  • Little formal consultation between course providers and practitioners.
  • Employers call for apprenticeships.

The report also makes a series of recommendations in an action plan for the profession.

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Liz Long

Heritage Apprenticeships Programme Manager


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