Trainee blacksmiths (above) are among the paid volunteer placements being created by major new funding
Culture chiefs are hoping to create hundreds of jobs across the heritage sector after the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a £7.3 million funding injection for specialist training.
The two-tier scheme will launch a new £5 million programme, Skills for the Future, teaching potential managers how to preserve buildings, environments and collections, and will also gift more than £2 million to current sites in an extension of the Fund's existing £7 million Training Bursary Programme.
"More than ever in these difficult times, we want to focus on offering people skills which will give them a future career and at the same time meet the needs of the sector," said Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the HLF.
"I believe passionately that heritage can play a significant part in economy recovery. This immediate cash, followed by a wider long-term commitment, will ensure our heritage is protected for the future and represents a hugely exciting chance to attract people who might not usually consider a career within it."
Trainee reed and sedge cutter Rowan Nichols. Picture courtesy Helen Healey / HLF
Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw said the initiative, which targets areas from horticulture to conservation and web design, would have "a real impact."
"I am delighted by this news. It's wonderful to know people will be trained in the skills needed to look after and help us learn about our shared heritage. This will include opportunities for all sorts of people.
"The money will help organisations nurture new talent and provide those who are currently unemployed or changing direction with the opportunity to really make a difference."
Conservation trainee Rachel Swift is one of the trainees on the £1 million Institute of Conservation talent scheme
More than 100 extra traineeships will be created immediately, with authorities challenged to apply for funding to introduce more across a period of up to five years.
The investment aims to relieve pressure on the current programme – 60 applications have been received for one placement in some cases, and more than 10,000 additional craftspeople are needed to meet shortages in the £1 billion industry, according to estimates.
On-the-job training for hundreds of volunteers saw almost 90 per cent of trainees earn jobs in lime plastering, sedge cutting, thatching and other threatened trades last year, working on the 10 million pre-Victorian buildings in the UK.
The project aims to develop teachers in areas including hedging. Picture courtesy Bridget Peirson / HLF
Current beneficiaries include 17 bodies led by English Heritage to run the Historic and Botanic Gardens Scheme, 32 archaeological placements co-ordinated by the Historic and Botanic Gardens Scheme, a £1 million Institute of Conservation scheme offering 60 bursary placements and a £900,000 building skills drive in England and Wales.
"No-one can underestimate the importance of skills to maintaining our historic landscapes and buildings, but there is such a severe shortage of skilled people to look after them," said Sarah Heaffey, Training Bursary Project Manager of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, where more than £700,000 has been invested.
"The Broads are a huge magnet for tourism, and really struggle to retain local craftspeople. HLF funding has already helped us to maintain crafts such as reed cutters and millwrights, and this money will go even further to ensure we're able to preserve all that makes the Broads so distinctive long into the future."
Skilled craftsmen at York Minster. Picture courtesy Kippa Matthews / HLF
Mark Farrar, of ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the construction industry, said the built heritage was an "invaluable" part of the UK's culture and economy.
"It is essential that we have the right skills, knowledge and expertise to properly maintain and repair it," he added. "We welcome the timely boost this new initiative and funding will provide, especially in the current economic climate, to help train craftspeople in the heritage sector."