Scotland address heritage skills gap with new roadmap

Edinburgh Castle is just one of Scotland's many buildings that rely on specialist skills in order to maintain it.

A new five-year plan has been launched to help tackle Scotland’s heritage skills gaps. Named The Skills Investment Plan (SIP) it will work on collective solutions that support the future of our historic environment and the communities across Scotland that rely on it.

The plan identifies priority actions to build a healthy and sustainable skills system which supports paid staff, volunteers, sole traders, and organisations of all sizes across the sector. There are three priority themes: to grow provision and build capacity; attract future talent and improve access to the workforce; and foster innovation.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and 15 sector partners coordinated extensive research with 160 organisations and 340 individuals to support the development of this plan which is an extension of the original roadmap set out in 2019.

During the first five-year plan, there was progress in key areas including the creation of employability programmes in traditional building skills, developing a new training programme in energy efficiency, and reaching nearly 15,000 young people through campaigns such as Creative Careers Week, Build Your Future, and Defend the Castle to attract new talent. 

The refreshed plan reflects the landscape changes that have occurred, since the first plan was published and the sector continues to face challenges in attracting and retaining talent post-Brexit, as well as the additional work required to bring operations back to pre-pandemic levels. SIP will be launched officially at Scotland’s national conservation centre –  the Engine Shed to over 100 representatives involved in skills planning and delivery, leading heritage organisations, and funders, and will feature an address from Kaukab Stewart, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development who said: 

“The launch of the refreshed Skills Investment Plan for the Historic Environment represents a significant step forward in our collective efforts to safeguard and celebrate our historic environment. But it is only the beginning and I call upon those involved to actively engage in the delivery of the Skills Investment Plan over the next five years and face the challenges head-on together, with confidence and innovation.

Director of external relations and partnerships at HES, Alison Turnbull commented:

“The partnership and collaboration involved in developing this strategy demonstrates how we will work together as a sector and with our partners to build a skills system that works for the sector, that supports us to address challenges and seize opportunities collectively. We have learned from recent global challenges and their impact on the delivery of the SIP.  Therefore, it’s important that we work together as a sector and we remain committed to cooperation and collaboration. The themes and priority actions in the refreshed plan move us closer to our collective goal of helping to address the skills challenges constraining the operation and growth of the historic environment.

“A sustainable and successful heritage sector is also vital in meeting Scotland’s net zero target. This plan helps pave the way for us to attract and retain the skills and talent we need for a fairer, greener future. The plan recognises that a skilled workforce is crucial for the sector to continue to deliver for Scotland’s economy and to manage, protect and conserve our historic environment for generations to come.”

The Skills Investment Plan supports the delivery of Our Past, Our Future, Scotland’s strategy for the historic environment. Under this strategy organisations across the country are working together to sustain and enhance the benefits of Scotland’s historic environment. Pre-covid, this contributed £4.2 billion to Scotland’s economy. The plan responds to one of its key principles to help nurture and grow an inclusive, diverse and skilled workforce.

Cara Jones, sector skills manager at The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), said:

“Being part of the Skills Investment Plan has supported Scottish archaeology to further develop a strategic approach for skill development initiatives. It has enabled fresh conversations within our sector and beyond, and supported us to explore shared challenges, barriers and potential solutions. This includes maintaining the role that our sector plays in the active delivery of Our Past, Our Future and ‘Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy’. The sub-sector collaboration, enabled by being part of the Skills Investment Plan helps save time, resource and enables us to share expertise and learning experiences.

"CIfA has been pleased to contribute to the development of the refreshed SIP which will support the delivery of our own strategic objectives to ensure that our standards for accrediting competence, education, training and qualification standards are applicable and appropriate across all specialisms and roles. This work will not only help shape and promote archaeology as an attractive, rewarding and worthwhile career with parity of esteem with other professions, it will also support the development and promotion of non-traditional, diverse pathways to and through a career in Scottish archaeology. 

"We are delighted to see the refreshed Skills Investment Plan launch today and look forward to supporting the future delivery of the strategy.”