Pilot scheme tackles skills shortage

Lack of building conservation workers has become "acute" in US

The number of skilled building conservation workers is dwindling worldwide, but the situation in the US has become “acute” as young people opt for university rather than a trade, says Bonnie Burnham, the president of the World Monuments Fund (WMF). She hopes to attract more people to train in stone conservation with a pilot programme at the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York—the burial place of key figures such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the collector, sculptor and founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The nine-week course, aimed at high-school graduates, began in July. Two of the 12 students will be offered 18-month apprenticeships at the cemetery, and entry-level restoration jobs will be found for the other ten elsewhere.

Parks and other public amenities could also benefit from the training programme, Burnham says. “As long as we can pair trainees with a work site and a master craftsman to train them, [it] could expand significantly,” she says, adding that there could also be opportunities in other older cities, such as Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit, if the pilot works out as planned.

The pilot is a partnership between the WMF, Woodlawn and the International Masonry Institute, with support from the Heckscher Foundation for Children and Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow.