English Heritage has set up a training group to help specialist conservation contractors tackle the growing skills crisis in the sector.
The body, called the National Heritage Training Group, is to be chaired by David Linford, chairman of the Heritage Building Contractors Group.

The group's aim is to improve apprenticeship training and persuade schools' careers advisers to promote heritage construction and associated trades as careers.

The Construction Industry Training Board has also given its backing by awarding a £25,000 training grant.

English Heritage intends to establish CITB-approved apprenticeship training as a prequalification requirement for conservation projects.

John Fidler, conservation director at English Heritage, said tradespeople tended to take an interest in conservation work later on in their career. He added that the skills shortage was exacerbated by the fact that CITB funding for apprenticeships stops after the age of 25 in England, though not in Scotland or Wales.

In January this year, research into skills and training by the Heritage Lottery Fund revealed widespread shortages of skilled stonemasons, thatchers, stained glass conservators and other heritage tradespeople.