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Skills shortage puts heritage at risk

A shortage of old fashioned building skills in Tasmania could put 40 per cent of Australia’s heritage-listed buildings at risk of falling into disrepair.

The state’s building industry training board has warned the know-how needed to conserve a huge list of heritage properties is fast disappearing.

Tasmania is home to around 5500 heritage-listed buildings, which account for 40 per cent of all such buildings in the country.

The Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board has commissioned research on the demand for skills like stonework, traditional plastering and stained glass conservation.

“If we actually add in the properties that aren’t registered, I’d suggest that Tasmania probably has even a larger proportion than that,” board chairman David Hudson told reporters on Monday.

“All of those are obviously deteriorating over time, and if we get to a stage where the skills needed to repair and remediate these buildings aren’t available then, yes, they are all at risk.”

Mr Hudson said the problem existed throughout Australia, citing a 2010 report on Victoria, which has 14 per cent of Australia’s heritage properties.

“Perhaps it’s perceived as an older skill, one that’s not needed any more,” he said.

“Property owners are actually finding it difficult to find these practitioners, which means either the work isn’t done or, sometimes even worse, it’s done by someone who hasn’t got the appropriate skills which actually makes the deterioration worse.”

Researcher Andrew Jones said a small but highly skilled workforce was needed to replace ageing tradesmen close to retirement.

“The main driver of heritage skills training in the state at the moment is personal interest,” Mr Jones said.

“We need to try to make sure that maybe there’s some more formal training available for the younger tradesmen and women.

“If we don’t act now, I think in 10, 15 years’ time we’ll have a situation where we no longer have highly skilled specialist heritage practitioners available to do work on properties.”

The research is due to be completed in mid-May.

Reinvent Your Career would like to thank The Australian where this article first appeared.

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