Historic England launches £4.3m grant for heritage construction training

Trainee stonemason Alice Eaton

Historic England and the Hamish Ogden Foundation have launched what they claim is the largest ever one-off investment in heritage construction in England – a £4.3m grant to fund a new apprenticeship programme.

The money will be put towards the five-year Heritage Building Skills programme, delivered by Historic England.

The programme aims to increase expertise in essential crafts such as bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plastering, roofing and stonemasonry.

Historic England warned that without the intervention now, crucial skills are at risk of being lost forever with ”grave consequences” for England’s pre-1919 historic buildings.    

Apprentices will work alongside Historic England experts in four- to six-week summer schools at sites in the north of England that are on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, starting in summer 2022. The long-term ambition is to expand the scheme across the country.

Applications for heritage building skills apprenticeships are open from Wednesday 30 June 2021. There will be 40 training opportunities over the next five years with five apprentices being recruited now. 

To encourage take-up of the apprenticeship programme, Historic England will be working with further education colleges and small heritage construction companies to recruit people in the core building trades of bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plastering, roofing and stonemasonry. Training providers include Cheshire College South and West, Hopwood Hall College, Leeds College of Building, New College Durham, The Sheffield College and York College.

In 2022, the scheme will also be open to experienced workers wishing to transition into heritage construction and learn specific heritage craft skills. Opportunities will range from shorter paid placements of around six months to paid placements lasting for a year.

Applicants can view all opportunities and apply via Applications close at midnight on 18 July 2021. 

Businessman and philanthropist Hamish Ogston of the Hamish Ogston Foundation, which supports projects in health, heritage and music in the UK, said: “It gives me a huge sense of fulfilment to make this investment in a project that I am confident will make a real difference to people’s life chances, setting them on a path to sustainable, satisfying jobs. What could be more satisfying than giving a future to our past through hands-on work to conserve the great buildings that are one of our nation’s greatest assets? Part of my confidence comes from our partnership with Historic England, which has a track record of first-rate delivery and implementation. Together we will help supply the high-level practical skills that our built heritage needs if it is to survive and flourish.”  

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “We are delighted to be working with The Hamish Ogston Foundation on this ground-breaking programme. As life moves closer to normality again, this is an exciting employment and heritage skills training opportunity for young people starting their careers and for professionals in the construction industry looking for a rewarding change. This programme will inspire others by making a huge contribution towards saving some of England’s most important historic buildings.”   

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