r e v i e w 37 VOCATIONAL TRAINING AND THE NATIONAL TRUST RORY CULLEN Rory Cullen MScBldgCons FCIOB IHBC is head of buildings at the National Trust and is responsible for maintaining building standards at the thousands of buildings and structures in the trust’s care. He is a former conservation officer and university estates and facilities manager. Here he discusses recent training initiatives at the National Trust, including a new apprenticeship scheme that is helping to ensure that the skills and expertise of the trust’s senior craftspeople are passed on to a new generation. He also discusses the wider implications of the traditional skills shortage and the tendency of skills training to focus on new-build. the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Heritage Skills Card. In 2012 we decided to take this one step further by ensuring that all of our craftspeople achieve this status. We therefore enrolled our craftspeople on an NVQ Level 3 in their respective trades which, once completed, enabled them to apply for their CSCS Heritage Skills Card. I firmly believe we should be influencing the heritage sector to ensure those working on such buildings have suitable qualifications to do so, and I hope that where we have taken the lead others will follow. The National Trust Apprenticeship Scheme The alarming loss of traditional building skills was anecdotal until 2005, when the NHTG published the report Traditional Building Craft Skills: Assessing the Need, Meeting the Challenge . For the first time the government had hard evidence showing the extent of the problem and this was bolstered by similar reports covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which were published over the following four years. Using these reports as a basis, I undertook an analysis of our own teams in 2009. The statistics were damning: within a three-year period, over 25 per cent of our craftsmen would be retiring, with the figure rising to 40 per cent within six years. In one team of 11 alone, five of the staff had 220 years of combined experience. Armed with this information, it was relatively easy to put together a business case to justify an apprenticeship scheme. This was accepted by our trustees and in September 2010 we welcomed our first intake of ten apprentices. The placements last for three years and each apprentice is provided with a mentor who is normally due to retire at the end of the apprenticeship. The basic principle is that the apprentice can then step into the mentor’s shoes, ensuring continuity of skills. Funding for the first year was provided centrally, with the next two years paid for by the property, by which time the apprentices are becoming more self-sufficient. They are enrolled on a minimum NVQ Level 2, but further funding is then provided to enable them to progress to their Level 3 The National Trust is responsible for looking after over 25,000 built structures across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These range from Grade I listed mansions to field barns, cottages, poultiggeries (which combine pig sty and poultry house) and a huge array of other vernacular buildings. To help with this workload we can call on our own direct labour staff in most regions as well as external contractors. At present we have about 140 skilled craftspeople, based on estates in most of the trust’s regions and covering trades such as stonemasonry, carpentry and joinery, plastering, brickwork, plumbing, electrical work, and painting and decorating. Depending on the size of the teams, our craftspeople have the skills to undertake large projects as well as maintenance work (our annual spend on short-term cyclical maintenance is over £20 million). In 2010, along with other key heritage organisations such as English Heritage, ConstructionSkills and the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG), we agreed to a memorandum of understanding to promote and enhance traditional craft skills in the UK. As part of this, the signatory organisations agreed to encourage their staff and contractors to work towards Tutors and apprentices at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, where a three-day retrofit training course was held in conjunction with the Prince’s Foundation.