The Future of Historic Preservation: Education for the Trades
Often decisions are made whether to repair or replace based on the capacity of the workforce and the skills needed to execute the work. Buildings are gutted, windows removed, details torn down not because they are not valued but because the building owner/manager can't locate qualified trades to complete the project.
That being said, the lack of training in the trades quickly translates to the lack of appreciation of the depth of knowledge that was possessed to produce these architectural gems. This then translates into the "'rip out and replace" mentality.
Let's face it, it's human nature to discard that which we under value and safeguard that which we treasure.
The result is a never ending cycle of tear down and replace. Lesser quality materials and craftsmanship are the result. The historic preservation movement has somehow managed to slow the vicious cycle down, though it still continues today.
It's well known that we need more skilled labor in the workforce. A common but less evident problem is making business work for the trades person. Contracting businesses can be a dysfunctional place to work. Low wages, poor working conditions, winter lay-offs, little or no benefits such as 401k plans, vacation, and health insurance.
In order to attract quality people eager to see a future in the trades it is necessary for the employer and management team to face the reality of their own business culture. A dysfunctional contracting company can not attract and keep quality people.
Quality people have options. When looking into investing in a trades career they are ( of course ) looking out for the best interests of themselves and their family. When faced with numerous opportunities to follow a career path trades are not the only option a young, eager person has available. Add into the mix a low unemployment rate and the leadership is faced not only with competing for projects in the marketplace, but also competing for talent.
The contracting business culture is a big part of the broader trades education puzzle that exists today. It begins with a strong leadership vision.
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
John F. Kennedy
John Stahl has been involved in all aspects of training, product development, and developing a trades training curriculum. Over the past 10 years John has also coached business owners in the A/E/C industries on business related topics.
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