One woman is the driving force behind a new endeavour to establish the first accredited course in Australia teaching tradespeople about heritage, with a pilot program to be potentially held in the South West.
As it currently stands, there is no certified course in place for people to become qualified in heritage.
There are short 'top up' courses, but even they are not accredited.
Heritage skills facilitator Yolanda Cool said our vocational education system was failing to produce young tradespeople with the knowledge and skills required to undertake work on heritage properties.
“Currently in WA and in Australia if we are looking at building construction there are no qualifications in heritage," she said.
“They are importing labour from overseas and we have a skilled ageing population of about 55 plus that were trained in the 80’s. So if you are looking at apprenticeship, pre-apprentice, diploma, there’s nothing.
“When I discovered this over two years ago I was like ‘what, you are joking. This can’t be real.’ One of the things that stopped me was there was no register. Unless you are a plumber, electrician or builder there is no registration board. Which means there is no system of checking who is qualified. There’s a huge black hole.”
Ms Cool said there was massive potential in promoting the heritage of our towns and our state.
"The preservation of our heritage assets enables their ongoing use, boosts tourism, creates local livable spaces and upholds our state as a leader in heritage management," she said.
"In our local communities it can generate employment while maintaining a sense of place and belonging, which helps adhere and sustain our rural communities in particular.
"As a state we need to demonstrate support for upskilling Western Australians and for preserving our states heritage. This is a confirmation that our history and the skills of our people are not only worth preserving, they are worth celebrating."
Ms Cool is currently trying to get the Heritage Skills Project up and running, by working alongside local communities, businesses and government agencies to establish a Heritage Skills Academy.
"We recently became aware of the work being conducted by Roundhouse Pty Ltd in Collie," she said.
"The passion they have for saving the historical Roundhouse building and working with community to preserve and re-purpose it is commendable.
"It would make a wonderful pilot project for us to kick off the academy’s field work."
Roundhouse Pty Ltd director George Colvin said it would be a real plus for the region.
"There's nobody to carry on what they're doing (ageing population), so if you get this heritage thing going it means that young people that if they have an inclination then they have an opportunity to be able to learn about heritage. It's got to be a plus, he said.
Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray said the program would be great for the town.
“I believe this program would be beneficial in the interest of maintaining the heritage buildings across our state and, due to our rich history, Collie would be a fantastic place to start,” he said.
Ms Cool said she was trying to begin the discussion, with the aim for government to look at contracts to specifically say what skill level they need and to what standard, with the aim of that supporting a training academy.
“We are working on government policies to be changed and I have been in contact with people in Australia and internationally at a model that we can bring in through TAFE, or through the private sector to start running courses," she said.
“Unless we change that then people will go and work in the industry without any qualifications."
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