Fewer decisions in life are bigger or more complex than choosing a career. Choosing to work with the historic environment can be a positive step that can guide many of your decisions.
The historic environment is made up of any building or landscape with historic significance to its community. This is what makes this sector so wide, vibrant and exciting.
Working with the historic environment
This is a broad sector and there are hundreds of different job roles, organisations and businesses within it. Building conservation is a key part of this and an important area to explore within this.
You can learn and train within the historic environment sector, but there are also many people that join it by bringing skills they have learnt elsewhere.
The importance of building conservation
Building conservation is how we look after our traditional buildings, towns and landscapes so that we can continue to enjoy, use and live in them for generations. To do this we need diverse people bringing diverse skills such as:
traditional building crafts like stonemasonry, where stone is cut to repair traditional buildings
scientific and technical research, where problems with our historic buildings are studied in detail at our labs and at sites
digital documentation, where new technologies can create 3D digital surveys of sites and monuments
construction management, where specialised projects at sites are carefully controlled
architecture, surveying and design, where specialist construction knowledge ensures historic buildings are appropriately maintained, adapted and fit for future use
How we can help
At the Engine Shed in Stirling we focus on bringing together traditional skills and cutting-edge technology which are essential for working with traditional buildings.
From conservation science to digital documentation, meet the teams working here.
As our historic environment is a finite and unique resource, care of it requires expert skills and knowledge. But these skills are often in short supply. Training to work in a technical, craft or construction role could offer you ample opportunities.
Look at My World of Work to see the full range of jobs available and more detail on the requirements for each role, including a breakdown of the subjects you could choose to study at school. And for more careers support and events, explore Developing the Young Workforce.
There are many jobs to choose from, here are some examples:
There are different ways that you can learn the skills and knowledge to work in the historic environment. Often your study choices should be guided by your interests or skills you have learned.
Qualifications in Scotland
There are lots of types of qualifications to choose from, these are structured by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF scale). Their interactive framework explains the different types of qualification that are available.
It is worth considering what transferrable skills could be learnt when choosing your preferred study route. Remember, it’s quite usual for people to choose to specialise in building conservation and specific niche areas after their initial studies.
The main routes you can take to learn and train are with apprenticeships, and through courses at college and university. You can study part time for all the options below.
Apprenticeships in Scotland
Foundation Apprenticeships are for S5 and S6 pupils to work with an employer and a college over a school year. You will gain the equivalent of a Higher
We offer various apprenticeships opportunities every year, many of them related to building conservation. In Elgin and Stirling, we run two stonemasonry training centres and are responsible for the training of local stonemason apprentices. We also employ apprentices in joinery, gardening, painting & decorating and electrical installation.
Conservation Trainee Programme
We offer opportunities for people to join us as a trainee and learn about specific fields of building conservation. As a trainee at Historic Environment Scotland you are employed and can work with teams across our organisation.
We annually recruit our trainees who work and learn together throughout their time with us. Trainees work with a mentor who helps them work towards their own CPD goals.
Craft Fellowship Programme
Our programme aims to support the traditional skills capacity across Scotland. Craft fellows are hosted and trained by master craftspeople throughout Scotland. Some of the traditional skills that our craft fellows have trained in are blacksmithing, stone carving, milling, boatbuilding and quarrying.
Our new Master of Science degree and Postgraduate Diploma has been developed to fill a gap in practical conservation training in Scotland. Graduates, active professionals and experienced building practitioners looking to further their understanding of current conservation principles and practices.
Learning doesn't stop after school, college or university. Learning will remain a constant throughout your life and career. So finding ways you enjoy learning and building habits that work for you is important. This is often referred to as Continual Professional Development, CPD for short.
Record and share your work
As you build your experience and skills, it is important to remember to record and share them in an engaging way. With many creative and craft roles, having a visual portfolio is a good way to share your work, this could be a video showreel, a selection of photos or printed technical drawings.
With other types of roles, you can showcase your achievements with a series of reflective blogs or project case studies. This means you can easily share the value of your work at future interviews and can help to make you stand out when applying to jobs. Even creating a simple CPD log will help you visualise how your learning is progressing.
Build your network
To succeed in the building conservation sector, it helps to build a network of people you can call on for help and advice. You can do this in person by getting to know people at conferences, at work or when volunteering alongside others. Network online by engaging with groups and discussions that reflect your interests.
Look out for learning opportunities
CPD is an important part of any career in building conservation. So look out for opportunities that exist with more formal training courses and workshops, and with self-directed study on e-learning courses, webinars and structured reading.
Opportunities to get involved in building conservation
There are lots of ways to take that first step. If you’re hoping to find out more, or try something new, here are some ways to consider doing this:
The Engine Shed has been supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to create Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre. It enables us to encourage understanding of traditional building materials and skills among the public and professionals and raise standards in conservation for traditional buildings.