2016 Yearbook

U S E F U L I N F O R M A T I O N 83 EMPOWERING VOLUNTEERS SKILLS NEEDS and TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES KATE KENDALL The IHBC was founded by a group of dedicated volunteers over 30 years ago. Today it is a professional body which continues to go from strength to strength, predominantly on the basis of its strong volunteer corps. The IHBC and its small national office would not have been able to achieve half of what it has to date without them. Our volunteers carry out a wide range of tasks including the work of our national committees, which make great strides in lobbying government. Training is one of the most important aspects of the IHBC’s work, not only internally for our members through CPD, but also externally. Although approximately one in five buildings in the UK is traditionally constructed, most training programmes for consultants and contractors still do not include any training related to this type of construction. All too often neither owners nor the architects, surveyors and builders they engage understand the damage which can be caused by modern building approaches. Many also fail to grasp the importance of spotting, understanding and preserving regional variations in the detailing of traditional buildings. The need for outreach could not be greater. Much of the IHBC’s training is delivered by the nationwide branch network which is made up of the institute’s members who willingly volunteer their time. These are not ad hoc, informal training sessions, but highly professional events attracting high-profile speakers and important figures from across the sector. Almost all events are open to both members and non-members, providing invaluable opportunities to extend our network and push back the frontiers of conservation. It is with this invaluable resource in mind that we are embracing the subject of volunteering at this year’s annual school. Our member volunteers from the West Midlands Branch were very keen to make this year’s school theme ‘people power’. The subject highlights how people, including many in volunteer roles, can act as catalysts for the improvement of the historic environment. Many people are passionate about saving our heritage and the main focus of the school will be to explore their role in the broad spectrum of conservation. The speakers are from a wide range of backgrounds. They include practitioners, key personnel within the sector and, perhaps most importantly, the community groups and trusts – the volunteers who are directly involved with their local heritage. We particularly want to learn from this latter group. In these challenging times, harnessing the power of the people is ever more important. The IHBC has a huge pool of heritage skills, including over 1,200 highly qualified full members and almost 1,000 affiliate members, all of whom are advocates for the principles of conservation and the use of appropriate skills. Through their roles in public and statutory bodies, private practice and the voluntary sector, their direct impact on the historic environment is substantial. However, even more can be achieved through outreach, whether by drawing in other building industry professionals to our own events, or by working with other organisations and training bodies to provide expert heritage content in their own programmes. All of this depends on volunteers. By recognising the wealth of our members’ knowledge and expertise we can ensure that they are empowered and feel valued. People make conservation happen, without them where would our historic environment be? Our heritage is important, valuable and precious, but it is also a finite resource. To paraphrase the West Midlands Branch annual school theme, saving this resource is all about people power and with that we thank our volunteers! Kate Kendall, lets@ihbc.org.uk Delegates visit Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester as part of the 2015 IHBC North West Branch Conference (Photo: John Hinchliffe)