Keeping traditional skills alive

A stonemason undertaking conservation work on the Orangery facade at Tyntesfield, Somerset

The loss of traditional building skills has been rued for many years now, but the extent and impact of this loss was confirmed in a 2005 National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) report commissioned by the government.

The report highlighted shortfalls in traditional skills and an ageing workforce in these areas throughout England. Subsequent investigations covering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show a similar trend across the UK.
Although we have 150 staff with traditional expertise including stonemasons, carpenters, joiners, plumbers, bricklayers and lime plasterers, this workforce is following the same worrying trend that the NHTG report highlighted.

Partnership to save skills

That’s why we’re involved in a partnership to make sure these valuable traditional skills don’t die out. We’re working with English Heritage, Cadw (the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government), and Construction Skills on a bursary scheme that nurtures traditional building skills.
This bursary scheme is aimed at students part way through their training in a traditional building trade such as carpentry, joinery, stone masonry, painting and decorating, brickwork and plasterwork.

Vocational qualifications

We are able to set up valuable work placements for these students with the National Trust, one of the partner organisations, or with contractors that specialise in heritage work. The apprenticeship allows each learner to complete their vocational qualification whilst at the same time develop skills to be able to work on historic buildings.
Prior to this the National Trust Building Apprenticeship Scheme ran from 2010-2013 to help tackle the imminent skills shortage within our own teams of craftsmen.