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17 April 2024

Scotland’s heritage sector publish roadmap to help tackle skills gap

Future skills strategy launched following sector-wide collaboration

Two young people are laying bricks in a learning workshop. They both wear safety goggles and protective gloves.

A new five-year plan has been launched today, 17 April, to help tackle Scotland’s heritage skills gaps. The skills strategy is a collaborative framework to create collective solutions that support the future of our historic environment and the communities across Scotland that rely on it.

The Skills Investment Plan (SIP) identifies priority actions to build a healthy and sustainable skills system which supports paid staff, volunteers, sole traders, and organisations of all sizes spanning this diverse sector. Over its lifespan, the plan will focus on 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 the refreshed plan, including sector partners, employers, volunteers, professional bodies, skills bodies and educational institutions. Together, these groups identified the priority areas for action to continue to build on the roadmap set out in 2019 in the sector’s first dedicated skills strategy.

The first five-year plan saw 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 like Creative Careers Week, Build Your Future, and Defend the Castle to attract new talent. The landscape has changed 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.

The refreshed plan will be launched at the Engine Shed, Scotland’s national conservation centre, 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.

Culture Minister Kaukab Stewart 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.

“Through this refreshed Skills Investment Plan, and through collaboration across the country, we aim to build an accessible skills system for the historic environment sector that will provide a fairer and more sustainable future for everyone.”

Alison Turnbull, Director of External Relations and Partnerships at HES, said:

“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 which, pre-covid, 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 (SIP) 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.

The refreshed plan is available to download on the HES website.

The Historic Environment footprint

The historic environment includes archaeology, architecture, engineering, planning and surveying in a heritage context and using a conservation approach, archives and libraries, conservation, heritage science, heritage tourism, industrial heritage, historic landscapes and gardens, museums and galleries, traditional building skills, and intangible cultural heritage.

About the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) is the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas. We promote high professional standards and strong ethics in archaeological practice, to maximise the benefits that archaeologists bring to society. We are the authoritative and effective voice for archaeologists, bringing recognition and respect to our profession.
You can find more information about CIfA work on their website and social media channels.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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