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2013 - Skills in the Historic Environment Sector

In 2013 'Heritage Counts' looked at the skills within the historic environment. It included research into current and future skill needs of the sector, looking at where skill gaps exist and effective ways to address them.

The first piece of research, by Pye Tait, looked at skills research that has occurred across the historic environment in the past five years. It examins its findings by defining which skills are most in need and quantifying the supply and demand of these skills.

The research is presented in two separate reports:

  • The Literature Review: A summary of all relevant research reports, outlining the research methods used, key findings, recommendations and outcomes
  • Narrative Report: A synthesis of the literature that identifies: the key skills issues for the built heritage sector; how these issues have evolved over the past five years; the effectiveness of attempted interventions; and recommendations for addressing these issues in the future.

The evidence gathered in these two reports shows numerous market failures and recurrent issues that affect skills provision in the historic environment sector. The narrative report contains several recommendations for future actions that can help address these market failings.

Skills provisions in Local Authorities

The second piece of research was conducted by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officer (ALGAO). They were commissioned by English Heritage to undertake research which sought to understand where gaps in skills exist and preferred methods of developing skills.

The research highlighted a number of areas where local authority staff felt they were lacking skills including ‘Condition Assessment’, ‘Recording and Information Management’ and ‘Finance and Economics’.

Historic environments and cultural heritage skills survey

The third piece of research Creative & Cultural Skills and English Heritage, with additional funding from the Welsh Government's Sector Priorities Fund pilot programme, commissioned TBR to conduct research into the views of employers and freelancers regarding skills and workforce development issues within the cultural heritage sector across the UK.

The report, which is the first to examine the heritage and historic environment sector, points to a number of potential solutions that could be implemented by organisations within the sector, including stronger succession planning for businesses, the implementation of joint working practices across the sector, and a focus on identifying and nurturing specialist skills in sub-sectors such as archaeology and conservation, which are shown to be lacking.

Repair, maintenance and retrofit of traditional buildings skills

The 'Repair, Maintenance and Retrofit of Traditional Buildings Skills Research'  provides up-to-date evidence on the demand and supply of traditional building skills, materials and training provision needed for the repair, maintenance and energy efficiency retrofit of the 6 million traditional (pre-1919) buildings in England and Scotland. Commissioned by English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) it delivers updates on the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) reports, in England (2008) and Scotland (2007).

The report highlights that overall spend in 2013 was £3.8bn, down from £5.3bn in 2008 and the implications this is having on demographics and skills of the sector. The report supports the figures reported in ‘Heritage Counts 2012’, showing the decline in the number of apprentices. English Heritage is working with partners including the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Historic Scotland, Cadw, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the National Trust on the ‘Recommendations and Skills Action Plan’ to address the key issues for the sector raised by this and previous reports.

Training in survey techniques as part of the Hidden Holcombe project
Training in survey techniques as part of the Hidden Holcombe project, Somerset © Churches Conservation Trust

Skills summit

In May 2013, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation and Institute for Archaeologists convened a skills summit on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum, with support from English Heritage.

The summit bought together 60 members of the historic environment, to discuss the sector's response to the growing concerns around skills issues.

Case studies

Please find a range of additional case studies on skills initatives below:-

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