CALLING all brickies, carpenters, roofers and plasterers - Yorkshire’s ancient buildings need YOU.

Many of the county’s finest old buildings - churches, stately homes, Georgian townhouses and public buildings - are increasingly at risk because of the shortage of skilled craftsmen with the know-how to repair them properly.

Now young builders, carpenters, roofers and plasterers working in the modern building trade are being invited to upgrade their skills so that they can work on historic buildings too.

The good news: the eight-month ‘Heritage Skills Bridging Course’ being offered by the Yorkshire-based Heritage Craft Alliance can be done entirely at weekends in your own time, so you don’t need to give up your job.

And, thanks to a £30,000 grant from the York-based Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship, you could get the training completely free.

Two years ago master craftsman Glenn Young, who runs the Bedale-based Heritage Craft Alliance, was already warning that many of our finest old buildings were at risk.

Too many skilled craftsmen were retiring and taking their knowledge with them, he said - and not enough skilled young craftspeople were coming in to take their place.

It was a ‘ticking timebomb for our heritage,’ he said then. And in the two years since, the situation has only got worse.

The problem is that repairing or restoring an historic building - officially, one built before 1919 - requires different skills to modern construction.

Martin Stancliffe, the architect and former surveyor to the fabric of St Paul’s Cathedral who is now chair of the Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship, says restoration work that is done badly by people who don’t understand the materials or buildings they are working with might look fine in the short term.

But in the longer term it can do more harm than good.

“Some people might think that’s how it should be done, only to realise too late that it isn’t.”

So how to attract younger people with the right skills into the heritage sector?

Many young builders, carpenters and roofers already working in the modern construction industry would love to be able to work on heritage buildings, says Martin. But they often have young families, and full-time jobs that they cannot afford to give up to retrain.

Step forward Glenn’s new ‘bridging’ course.

Accredited by CSkills and the NOCN, it is aimed squarely at young builders already working in the modern construction industry who would like to learn the extra skills they need to work in the heritage sector.

The eight-month course, being piloted for the first time this summer, will involve three full days a month on weekends at the HCA training centre at Thorp Perrow in Bedale, plus

20 hours a month workbook study.

It is designed to equip applicants from the construction industry with the basic craft skills they need to work on heritage buildings, plus some theory.

The eight month course costs £3,000. But thanks to that £30,000 grant from Martin Stancliffe’s Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship, there are ten bursaries available,worth £3,000 each, which will cover the full cost of the training for 10 applicants.

The new ‘bridging course’ begins on August 24.

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