A shortage of skilled craftsmen could threaten the future of historic buildings in West Midlands, according to a new study.
A study backed by English Heritage and ConstructionSkills found that 2,293 people currently work within the built heritage sector in the region, preserving some 433,000 historic buildings, including 46,591 listed buildings.
But 29 per cent of local contractors have outstanding vacancies, and with the workload ever increasing, the industry needs to recruit more than 500 people locally in the next 12 months just to meet immediate demand.
They are desperately in need of more than 60 carpenters, speciality bricklayers and slate and tile roofers, 50 lead-workers and stonemasons and 40 joiners and painters and decorators. Experts fear that in 15 to 20 years time, craft skills such as drystone walling, thatching, millwrighting, earth walling, and flint-knapping could disappear.
Chris Smith, regional director at English Heritage West Midlands, said: "Not only does the report produce yet further evidence that heritage conservation skills are at risk, but uniquely it puts forward an action plan to tackle specific problems."
He added: "It's time for concerted action across the construction industry, the built heritage sector, educational establishments, careers organisations, funding bodies and Government departments to tackle a vital issue that lies at the heart of sustaining two things people hold very dear in the West Midlands - beautiful historic buildings such as Aston Hall in Birmingham, Charlecote Park in Warwick, Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, and Witley Court in Worcestershire."