Stone Federation Great Britain have formed a Heritage Stone Forum to represent their members in the heritage sector in the hope of tapping into some of the funds available to the heritage sector for training.
Jane Buxey, the Stone Federation chief executive, told NSS: “The aim in setting up this forum is to generate some specific heritage publicity and be able to tap into sources of funding that seem to be so readily available to other heritage groups in this sector.”
The Federation already have a Quarries Forum of the quarry operators among their membership to deal with issues relating to quarries that is currently working on a document to provide evidence of the environmental credentials of stone from British quarries.
In the heritage sector, the disparity between the National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) and the National Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG) has left the stonemasons feeling like poor relations.
The heritage training group, paid for by a unique arrangement between English Heritage and ConstructionSkills, has grown to include two project managers, a training officer and an administrator under the direction of Seamus Hanna.
Set up in 2002, two years before the Stone Industry Training Group, the Heritage Training Group began by studying the market and publishing a series of expensive reports identifying skills shortages in England, Scotland and Wales in 2005/6.
It has now published a follow up to the English report with the same title, Traditional Building Craft Skills, showing that although there have been reductions in skills shortages since the NHTG was formed it still has a lot to do. It plans to spend £1million to help further reduce the skills gap.
The Stone Industry Training Group, meanwhile, has one part-time training officer in David Priestman (who also administers Stone Federation’s training arm, Stone Train) and a budget of £28,000 from ConstructionSkills.
Yet the Stone Industry Training Group has achieved a lot – NVQs for facade cleaning & restoration and fixer masons, with more on the way; it is develping a two-year modern apprenticeship for stone fixing, including marble and granite interiors; and it has been working with the Heritage Training Group on an NVQ in heritage stone masonry.