The National Trust has created a new apprenticeship scheme in a bid to tackle the severe building skills shortage in the heritage sector.
The programme, which is aimed largely at 16 to 19-year-olds, will train apprentices in traditional skills including stone masonry, carpentry, joinery, lead work, plumbing, painting and decorating.
The three-year programme, which begins in September, will offer 16 positions atNational Trust properties across the UK, where apprentices will train alongside staff due to retire within that time. The aim is to provide continuity of skills by enabling those who are retiring to teach and mentor the next generation.
The trust employs around 130 direct labour staff across the country, with an average age of just under 50. With nearly 19% of those staff due to retire within four years, rising to 25% in six years, the need to recruit skilled people in their place is a priority.
Rory Cullen, head of building at the National Trust, said the severe shortage of people with heritage building skills has made it “extremely difficult” for the trust to recruit appropriate staff, adding that this is common to the industry as a whole.
“We have responsibility for the upkeep of more listed and historic structures than anyone else, so we are in a prime position to generate awareness of the issue and take action to address it,” he said. “However, the apprenticeship scheme will not only be of considerable benefit to the conservation of our own buildings, but to the heritage sector as a whole.”
The trust will fund the apprenticeship scheme, and places will be offered on a three-year contract basis. Each apprentice will be paid £12,000 a year, and college and tuition fees will also be covered.
In April, Personnel Today reported that apprenticeship schemes were being inundated with applicants as youth unemployment continues to rise.