Recent research conducted in partnership with the Northeast Regional Initiative for the Preservation Trades indicates that preservation and restoration trades careers can offer exactly these benefits.
In this research, 95% of survey respondents believed that working in the preservation trades – including carpentry, masonry, and metalworking focused on maintaining and rehabilitating historic buildings – can provide an interesting, fulfilling, and profitable career path.
Given the substantial number of older buildings in the Northeast that need repair and restoration, skilled preservation tradespeople are in increasingly high demand – but there is a widening gap between the specialized work that home and building owners need to have done and the number of people who know how to do it.
This research provides valuable data for trades training programs, employers, and preservation nonprofits to effectively promote these professional fields and ensure that tradespeople are well supported and positioned for success in their careers.
For Arron Sturgis, owner of Preservation Timber Framing Inc. based in Berwick, Maine, this research affirms what many professionals have long recognized: preservation trades work can be highly rewarding, but there is an urgent need to expand awareness about these career paths and strengthen the workforce. “This research provides a basis for action with regards to workforce development that will create really good jobs and much needed aid to homeowners and historic commercial ventures who are currently searching for the talent they need to do good work,” he shared.
This research project was completed by community and economic development specialists from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, working in collaboration with four regional partner organizations: the Preservation League of New York State, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, and Maine Preservation.
The research aims to clarify the status of preservation trades careers and identify ways to foster a more robust workforce of skilled tradespeople in the Northeast region. The research team surveyed, interviewed, and conducted focus groups with a wide variety of stakeholders, including tradespeople, preservation specialists, educators, and workforce development professionals.
It was supported through grants from the Moe Family Fund for Statewide and Local Partners through the National Trust for Historic Preservation and The 1772 Foundation.
An informational webinar highlighting the research findings will take place from 3:30 to 4:30 pm on Tuesday, March 28th. The full research report, entitled Understanding and Advancing the Preservation Trades, will be made available to the public at the same time. You can register for this free virtual program here.
“Skilled tradespeople are absolutely crucial to preserving our historic building stock. We look forward to working with our statewide colleagues as we dig into the report, Understanding and Advancing the Preservation Trades,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of NYS. “The data gathered by the research team will inform how we move forward to promote the preservation trades in New York and throughout the Northeast.”
This four-state research collaboration aims to develop recommendations for how statewide preservation nonprofit organizations in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine can advance the training and placement of historic preservation tradespeople (such as carpenters, masons, and other workers with traditional skills) and create a more robust, diverse, and sustainable workforce.
The Northeast region is currently experiencing a workforce shortage of preservation tradespeople, limiting means for historic buildings – whether notable or “everyday” – to be maintained, improved, and adapted to current needs.
This problem has been exacerbated by a variety of factors: the increasing number of buildings at a critical age for repairs, the widespread retirement of existing tradespeople, and rural in-migration trends across the Northeast region increasing labor demand.
Historic preservation not only contributes to a local sense of place and connections to heritage, but it can also be an important environmental sustainability strategy toward climate change mitigation and resource conservation. For more information about the initiative, click here.
Photo: Traditional trades apprenticeship students learning masonry (courtesy the National Preservation Training Center).