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Speeches and presentations

Welcome and introductions

Peter Rogerson Deputy Chairman


First of all, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to all of our speakers, our facilitators and guests, and thank you all for joining us here today. We have a few ‘Parish notices’ first [details given re fire alarm, mobile phones, etc.]

I am extremely delighted that the National Heritage Training Group and ConstructionSkills are able to host this event. It’s the first of its kind, but I sincerely hope it won’t be the last, and I feel sure that from the assembled company we can look forward to some inspiring and challenging debate. I am also pleased to be able to announce today that two specific skill initiatives have come to fruition. The first is that the long-awaited Heritage NVQ Level 3 has been approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The qualification is aimed at people already in the construction sector who want to further develop their building skills and their knowledge relating to traditional building and materials, and also, for the very first time, it provides a relevant qualification for experienced craftspeople already working in traditional build, conservation, repair and maintenance sectors. A target of 250 students has been set for the NVQ in its first year, and students will be able to start the course for September 2007.

My second announcement is the completion of the NHTG Traditional Building Skills report for Wales, and they are available now: these are the two documents, and this is the first report of its kind to assess Welsh traditional building skills, the supply and demand. As we’ve previously done in both England and Scotland, you’ll hear references to the findings during the day, and copies of the report are now available. It’s interesting that the report will also be showcased at Cadw Historic Wales stand at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, which is to be held on 24 July, where Jane Davison, the Welsh Assembly Government minister for sustainability and rural development, will be highlighting the report’s findings. The NHTG will be working with ConstructionSkills Wales, and Cadw, to take the action plan forward.

Let me now try and set the scene for this afternoon, starting with just a few statistics. Conservation, repair and maintenance on pre-1919 buildings is very big business indeed: £4.7 billion is spent every year in England and Scotland alone. There are around 5.9 million pre-1919 buildings in England, Scotland and Wales, including half a million listed buildings, making this a very significant part of the built environment: 20 per cent of the total building stock in England and Scotland, and one third of the building stock in Wales. In excess of 86,000 people currently work on the built heritage sector in England.

Turning to the purpose of this event, through research, many bodies have identified that there is a genuine fear that in 15-20 years’ time the skills essential to repair, maintain, conserve and restore the pre-1919 building stock will be seriously threatened, unless coordinated action is taken to provide specialist targeted training for a range of traditional building craft skills. So, what are those skills needs? The NHTG research reports in the past two years reveal the following: there is a shortage of some 6,500 craftspeople in England every year, 4,740 craftspeople are needed in Scotland between 2006 and 2010, and at the same time, 8,700 people require traditional building skills training. 280 additional workers are required in Wales between 2007 and 2011. Large knowledge gaps exist with building professionals in England, Scotland and Wales. Data is not yet available for Northern Ireland, but research in Northern Ireland begins in August, so we hope that the total UK picture will be available early in 2008. A high percentage of labour-only subcontracting is actually a barrier to training and skills development.

So, we’re here today to debate the strategic direction and development of action plans, to ensure that heritage skills become a priority within the mainstream construction industry’s agenda, and specifically, in the areas of firstly, procurement within the built heritage sector - that is to say that we want to explore whether the current procurement process within the built heritage sector can be altered to, say, a single supply chain model, example of quality procurement, price, tendering, works and tendering and training contracts - and also secondly, the coordination of delivery of heritage skills training and development, assessing how this can assist in filling particular skills shortages. Do initiatives such as heritage skills academy, regional and home county heritages skills action groups, training the trainers, qualifications development, help to fill the gaps? Most importantly, what more can be done?

So now I’d like to outline the day’s agenda. You are going to hear from experts across the field, who I’m delighted to welcome here today. In the first sessions you can look forward to hearing from Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, with her view from the perspective of the Heritage Lottery Fund - that being the main funding body within the heritage arena - and discussing skills and training within the built heritage sector in the current climate. Also from Jon Wallsgrove, Departmental Architect with Ministry of Justice, discussing procurement within the built heritage sector, single supply chain, quality price tendering, works and training contracts, and again, this is a subject of common interest to all of us involved in the heritage sector. The intention is this will be followed by a round table discussion on this topic, and the outcome of that, the facilitators will work with you, I will give you 8-10 minutes before the end of the session for facilitators to try and ensure that they have answered and filled in all the boxes. It’s not our intention that the facilitators will sum up today: the outcome will be fed back to you at a later date, so facilitators, not expecting you to do a round-robin of today’s discussions.

In the late afternoon session, you can look forward to hearing from Murdo MacLeod, Principal Conservation Officer at Edinburgh City Council: he is going to be discussing the coordination of delivery of heritage skills training, and the development thereof, and solutions to address the identified skills shortages and skills gaps. Again, this will be followed by a round table discussion on each table, and again, I will give you 8-10 minutes’ notice of wind-up, to try and bring your discussions to some kind of conclusion.

Naturally, all this hard work that we’re expecting from you deserves a reward, and there will be a drinks reception to be held at 6pm, and dinner will be served from 7pm. Before the dinner, and whilst we’re having drinks, you’re going to hear from Sir Michael Latham, Chairman of ConstructionSkills, who will sum up today’s event, and also from the new Chairman of the National Heritage Training Group, Mike Moody, who wishes to say a few words about the challenges ahead, form his perspective.

We had hoped that we were going to have a video clip from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and unfortunately many of you will know – and I know particularly because I live in Yorkshire – he has been spending a disproportionate amount of time in Yorkshire, trying to help with the flood disaster there, both from those affected in the villages and also the farmers, who are terribly affected, and giving his support, and therefore, he did not have time to record his video clip. However, he did send us his message, which is going to be scrolled up, and I’m going to read it to you at the same time. I have resisted the temptation, somebody said I should try and be Rory Bremner and do it in his voice, so I’ll use my Yorkshire voice rather than his more perfect English, and I’ll read it with you.

Message from HRH Prince of Wales

The message from His Royal Highness is:

The use of traditional craft skills, not only to preserve our country’s heritage, but also to enrich new development, is an issue of great importance to me, and I’m only sorry that I’m unable to be with you today, to contribute further to this fundamental debate. I am acutely aware that the demand from our heritage economy - now that at long last we appear to be treating our old buildings with the respect they deserve - means that all over the country, projects cry out for a new generation of skilled young people to replace those reaching the end of their careers, with a lifetime’s experience to pass on. At the same time, by integrating these skills into a modern construction economy, we have the chance to build a new architecture of continuity and real sustainability that responds to local climate, culture, materials and building traditions.

It is clear that the market distinctiveness holds a genuine attraction for business, and it’s not only now making commercial sense to adopt these skills in construction, but it also provides the clearest and simplest platform to meet today’s sustainability challenges. The promotion of traditional crafts means we are truly building for the long term, by considering ease of maintenance, durability and the environmental impact of the buildings we will leave as a legacy to future generations. Likewise, through the promotion of traditional craft skills, we allow many young people to achieve their true potential, something that my Prince’s Trust has been involved in for the past 31 years. For too long, far too many young people have been discouraged from discovering their true talents, and thus from the kind of psychological and social wellbeing to which they should be entitled.

I have nothing but the greatest possible respect and admiration for the skills craftsmen, and it is high time this country started to recognise the immense and unique contribution they make. I am most grateful to the National Heritage Training Group, whose hard work and commitment in recent years has further encouraged the development of craft skills across the various sectors throughout the country. In September 2006, my Foundation for the built environment, in partnership with ConstructionSkills and English Heritage, launched the Cotswolds Heritage Skills Academy, to help train a new generation of craftspeople. I hope this is the first of a series of such cross-disciplinary heritage skills facilities planned around the country. The model is already being taken to the north-west, and to Yorkshire. My Foundation for the Built Environment is also playing its part by developing its building crafts apprentices programme, now in the first year of expanded operation, which commences with a residential summer school this month in Lincoln, followed by a two-week placement at the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal near Ripon in Yorkshire. We need many more such programmes that can make a real and urgent investment in our future skill practitioners.

There are many organisations and agencies represented here today, who could make a dramatic difference if they were able to run such training and apprenticeship programmes before it is all too late, and we lose the accumulated experience of an older generation of craftsmen. Conferences and seminars are all very well - I have either initiated or attended all too many of them - but what we need most of all is practical action and practical investment on a continuing basis, and sooner, rather than later. I can only pray that by such efforts we can further a real commitment to developing the skills craft base in Britain, both by maintaining our heritage for future generations, and also fulfilling the longer-term building by addressing sustainable and sensitive place-based building construction, that can become the genuine craft-based heritage of the future, which once again, draws its inspiration from nature, and reconnects us to her timeless principles.

This message comes with my warmest best wishes for a successful event.

Peter Rogerson: We thank His Royal Highness for the message: we fully understand that his recent commitment has prevented him from videoing that, and we will write and thank him for his message.

My next duty is to introduce our first speaker: Dame Liz Forgan is the Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and she will be discussing skills and training within the historic environment, conservation, education, skills, public engagement and how it’s addressing the procurement and the skills shortage issues. So, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Liz Forgan. Thank you very much.

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