2013 Yearbook

32 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 3 architects in Northern Ireland who have completed one of the courses offered here since 1999 and can proceed to RIBA accreditation. It is clear that conservation is now firmly recognised as a specialist skill and, as a result, statutory bodies and clients are requiring accreditation as a proof of competence. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) recognises the RIBA scheme as fulfilling its grant requirements of a ‘suitably qualified or experienced’ architect but the NIEA is not yet at the stage of requiring accreditation. It has indicated that this is likely to come when a reasonable number of architects have gained accreditation in Northern Ireland. Given the figures above, the pool could be quite large if everyone who had completed a conservation course took the next step and gained accreditation. It looks like this might be part of my workload for the next couple of years. As someone pointed out, I’m now making sure that I have plenty of competition for conservation projects. Traditional skills training So now that we’re providing the necessary training for architects, who else needs to be trained? In early 2012 I was approached by South West College, which operates in counties Tyrone and Fermanagh, to see if I would be interested in applying for a post to train lecturers in traditional building skills. I applied, was interviewed and ended up being offered the job. It transpired that, since the launch of the National Heritage Training Group report Traditional Building Craft Skills – Assessing the Need, Meeting the Challenge – Skills Needs Analysis of the Built Heritage Sector in Ireland 2009 , CITB-ConstructionSkills NI had been working closely with its main partner the NIEA, and the Northern Ireland Traditional Building Skills Working Group, to develop the heritage skills infrastructure in Northern Ireland. As a result of this report, CITB- ConstructionSkills NI submitted a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Skills for the Future programme. The funding will provide the following opportunities to address some of the skills needs identified in the report: • upskilling 19 general and specialist craftspeople who are currently working with general builders to develop their traditional building skills knowledge and expertise through 12-month work-based placements • allowing 12–15 trainers from NI’s six FE colleges to participate in the first ever dedicated Training the Trainers programme to develop their knowledge and understanding of traditional building skills and help support future training in Northern Ireland • allowing four heritage ambassador- mentors to be trained to act as advocates and champions to promote the built heritage sector and traditional building skills and to pilot a structured mentoring scheme to pass on their knowledge and expertise to help develop the skills of less experienced craftspeople. The major focus of this project is on the trainees and on ensuring that, where possible, they work towards the NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Heritage Skills (Construction) and therefore achieve their industry registration scheme accreditation for heritage skills. Currently there are eight trainees in place across Northern Ireland with placements in stonemasonry, thatching, traditional painting, workshop joinery, conservation metalwork, traditional plastering and conservation joinery. The trainees started their NVQs by attending a two-day ‘off-the-job’ training course called Working on Conservation or Restoration Projects (Conservation Principles). In order to deliver the NVQs the number of assessors had to be increased to cover the relevant occupations. This has now been achieved and the trainees are working towards their NVQs. The assessors will be available across Northern Ireland to contribute to future training and assessment provision, creating a sustainable training infrastructure. The first ever Training the Trainers programme has just been delivered. It’s been an interesting experience, standing in front of lecturers with many years of experience in their own fields and talking about the differences between a new-build job and a conservation project. The highlights have included singing the praises of lime to a sceptical audience and then watching them become converts as they spend time working with it. CITB-ConstructionSkills NI has received excellent feedback and is in talks with several of the colleges about delivering more heritage training. I’m also involved in the heritage ambassador-mentor programme. At present I am mentoring a thatcher, a blacksmith and a plasterer and am probably learning more than I ever could from a book or seminar. Conservation for the 21st century As an IHBC member I like to think I am one link in a chain that will pull traditional skills and conservation into the 21st century. Without the rest of that chain – the RSUA, CITB-ConstructionSkills NI, HLF, FE colleges, Northern Ireland Traditional Building Skills Working Group, NIEA, the architects, craftspeople and students – the skills needed to successfully conserve our built heritage wouldn’t be available. And without our heritage, which makes us unique and special, what and who would we be? Further Information CITB-ConstructionSkills NI www.citbcsni.org.uk For a full list of accrediting organisations see www.bc-url.com/aic Architects participate in a ‘Lime Day’ at Heritage TBP Ltd, Ballymena, as part of the RSUA Conservation Training Course (Photo: Mark Patterson, Heritage TBP Ltd)