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Skills Shortage Puts Scotland’s Historic Buildings Under Threat

    Around 5,000 additional workers required to meet Scotland’s demand

Scotland’s traditional building stock including historic buildings are in danger of falling into disrepair as the current shortage of a skilled and qualified workforce is putting the conservation, restoration, repair and maintenance of these buildings in jeopardy.

The warnings are the result of a groundbreaking research report into the labour and skills situation within the built heritage sector in Scotland, published today by the National Heritage Training Group.

The ‘Traditional Building Craft Skills’ report which was commissioned by the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG)and jointly funded by ConstructionSkills and Historic Scotland and is the first of its kind to provide a ‘state of the nation’ evaluation report of the traditional skills industry within Scotland. The report highlights the need for immediate action and emphasises that:

  • In the next four years around 5,000 additional workers are required to meet demand
  • Over 8,700 individuals will require training in traditional skills over the next four years
  • The current £1.2 billion annual spend on repair and maintenance on pre-1919 buildings is insufficient to ensure survival of Scotland’s built heritage
  • There are nearly 450,000 pre-1919 buildings in Scotland including 47,000 listed properties
  • As Scotland’s traditional building stock ages, even more buildings will require repair and maintenance
  • Skilled craftspeople are difficult to find, especially stonemasons
  • New-build courses drive Further Education curriculum to the detriment of traditional buildings skills training
  • The current skills gaps exists at national as well as regional level

In order to meet the current demand and to provide the level of skills and resources required in the future, around 5,000 additional workers are needed, primarily within stonemasonry, carpentry, roofing (slate and tile) and painting & decorating. Experts 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 immediate coordinated action is taken to provide specialist targeted training for a range of traditional building craft skills.

Theses steps include; improving awareness among stakeholders of the need to use suitably skilled and qualified contractors; attracting people with the potential to become accomplished traditional craftspeople into the sector and making significant improvements in the amount and quality of traditional building skills training to ensure that this meets the skills requirements of the traditional building stock.

ConstructionSkills’ Director for Scotland, Graeme Ogilvy, explained: “In order to conserve Scotland’s historic buildings, it is imperative to preserve our craftspeople’s historic skills. As the Sector Skills Council for the industry, we’re currently working with Historic Scotland, the NHTG, and a number of others within the sector, to ensure that we have the right skills, in the right place, at the right time to maintain these significant buildings. We are committed to ensuring that these skills, and more specialist trades, don’t die out.

“While the report may come across as a shock, uniquely it also provides many solutions to tackle specific challenges that lie ahead. The message is very clear: it is time for joined-up thinking and concerted action across the construction industry, the built heritage sector, educational establishments, careers organisations, funding bodies and government departments. Collaboration will allow us to tackle a vital issue that is at the heart of sustaining two things which people hold very dear in this country – save Scotland’s beautiful historic buildings and the craftsmanship that maintains them.

John Graham, Chief Executive of Historic Scotland added: “Historic Scotland chief executive, John Graham, said: “Traditional conservation skills are an essential foundation of our work to protect Scotland’s rich built heritage. The shortage of specialist traditional skills and craftspeople has concerned us for many years and we are pleased that this issue is now more generally recognised and indeed, has been highlighted by this new report.

“We are committed to supporting and encouraging the traditional building skills, crafts and materials which are so vital to the protection and conservation of historic and traditional properties. To be effective across the traditional building sector we need the wider support of the construction industry and this can be best achieved by working in partnership with ConstructionSkills and the National Heritage Training Group.”

David Linford, Chairman of the National Heritage Training Group says: “The report is not only telling people that there is a real problem and that skills handed down from generation to generation are now being threatened – the skills action plan within the report also provides real solutions. It is a genuine way for those within the sector to get involved to make a difference and train for the future.”

For further information about the National Heritage Training Group, visit . For further information about ConstructionSkills, visit . For additional information on Historic Scotland, visit .

For the Summary Report 2.07mb PDF file

For the Full Report 5.8mb PDF file

For further information see the attached press release.

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