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Reflections on a Heritage Apprenticeship

By February 5, 2024No Comments
Photo of a square stone church tower with a round spire

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2024, I would love to share with the Heritage Trust Network Youth Forum my recent experience at Historic England. Since September 2023, I have been working as a Casework & Listing Assistant, where my main duties include the co-ordinating and processing of listing and development advice casework; this makes up 80% of my workload at the organisation. This is because the other 20% is spent working towards the completion of my Historic Environment Advice Assistant (HEAA) Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship, delivered by training provider Strode College. To accommodate my apprenticeship, my time is defined as ‘Off-the-Job’ training with the college and ‘On-the-Job’ training and experience with my employer. This is something that really drew me to apply for the role as it means I earn money whilst learning and gaining a range of new experiences towards my career.

Before I joined Historic England, I had experience working in adjacent areas of the heritage sector in archives/special collections and on public interpretation at the National Trust – but I always knew I wanted to have a greater impact on the historic environment by assisting in managing its change and conservation. The Historic Environment Advice Assistant Apprenticeship will provide me with the key knowledge for this career path, as it provides a wide scope of teaching from all the fundamentals of archaeological, landscape and architectural history, as well as the skills required to analyse, date, monitor and conserve a range of historic places.

Although my job role means I undertake work predominantly in the Listing and Business Team, my apprenticeship allows me to engage with all the teams across Historic England Regions, such as Partnerships, Development Advice and Stakeholder Engagement. This not only enables me to broaden my understanding of Historic England’s work, but it equips me to gain a better insight of the organisation as a whole and offers various opportunities to explore a range of pathways for my future employment once my apprenticeship comes to an end.

A really exciting project I have been part of at Historic England so far has been our involvement with a Grade II* listed church on the Heritage at Risk register, St John the Evangelist in Lancaster (pictured). Built in 1754, it was built by and for the expanding merchant community of Lancaster and was intended as an Anglican parochial chapel for the parish church. However, since 2015, the church has been closed and underused since flooding and subsequent outbreaks of wet and dry rot, with the historic fabric continuing to deteriorate. Historic England, working closely with the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), have been able to provide St John’s with an Urgent Repairs Grant as well as delivering a Summer School for around 20 apprentices under Historic England’s Heritage Building Skills programme, which is designed to help tackle the critical shortage in the essential skills needed to rescue historic buildings across the country. During this project I have been shadowing my colleagues on site visits, through the various stages of the grants process, learning about the work of other organisations such as CCT, and I have been documenting my experience to include as a report for my apprenticeship portfolio.

In February, I will get to meet the other Historic England HEAA apprentices as we visit the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings site (which includes the Grade I Spinning Mill and Flax Warehouse) for a work placement. This will be centred around Historic England’s partnership with Shropshire Council to bring Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, home of the world’s first iron framed building, back in to use for a third century. During this hybrid placement, taught through a mixture of on-site and online sessions, we will be given the opportunity to learn about industrial heritage and Historic England’s approach to it through regeneration and conservation, as well as learning about the fabric of the building and how this contributes to historic significance and its designation on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE).

Overall, my experience at Historic England so far has been incredibly enlightening, through both what I’ve learned and from getting to spend time with such passionate and supportive colleagues. It has made me feel more confident regarding my future career prospects and I am always looking forward to what exciting opportunity I will be offered next!

You can find out about the various apprenticeships that have been developed for the heritage sector, including the Historic Environment Advice Assistant apprenticeship, on Historic England’s website.


Written for the Heritage Trust Network Youth Forum by Lucy Kimpton, Casework and Listing Assistant, Historic England

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