Since its formal launch in 2019, the Campaign for Historic Trades, a partnership between the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center (Frederick, MD) and Preservation Maryland, has been squarely focused on putting young adults from diverse backgrounds and recent veterans “in the field” in paid pre-apprenticeship positions at National Park units across the country. The goal has been to change the makeup of historic tradespeople — and train the next generation to care for these irreplaceable resources. In 2019 (pre-pandemic), that resulted in nearly 60 apprentices working on projects around the nation – and 2020 was slated to be a year of dramatic growth.
Unfortunately, putting apprentices on a job-site during the middle of a pandemic proved to be a challenge the partnership could not overcome. Safety, travel concerns and closed parks prevented the placement of nearly all apprentices this year – a difficult blow for the program – but it ended up resulting in a pause which enabled the Campaign to pivot and think even more broadly about how to accomplish this work.
With recruitment, placement and apprenticeship training on hold – Preservation Maryland met virtually with their National Park Service colleagues and discussed how to lay the foundation for a dramatic expansion in trades training during this “pandemic pause.”
Concurrent with those discussions, Preservation Maryland was approached by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (the federal agency charged with establishing national preservation policy) to serve on a newly formed Traditional Trades Training Task Force with a focus on crafting a national policy statement to guide federal policy on the future of this critical issue.
As a result of this confluence of opportunities and discussions, The Campaign for Historic Trades has quietly prepared a plan which has the real potential to permanently reshape historic trades’ training across the nation.
In addition to preparing for the expansion of the pre-apprenticeship program (Traditional Trades Apprenticeship Program a.k.a. TTAP) in 2021, Preservation Maryland and the National Park Service are also now working to implement the following objectives over the course of the next year and a half which are designed to knock down the systemic barriers to historic trades training:
This ambitious plan also comes on the heels of the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act – a multi-billion dollar investment in the National Park Service – which will support more than $3 billion worth of historic rehabilitation projects across the nation. With this funding and projects, will come more apprenticeship opportunities as the nation emerges from COVID-19.
Despite the daunting challenges of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the Campaign has been able to adeptly and quickly pivot – and is now pursuing an even more ambitious and comprehensive strategy for trades’ training while still remaining committed to the original goal. Private funders willing to support and embrace this work moving forward will be critical to the success of the effort and additional philanthropic support is actively sought and desperately needed.
In 2021, the Campaign intends on continuing to invest in this strategic pivot – and continuing to expand the apprenticeship program which started this journey. The pandemic has given the effort pause – but not enough to deter the partners – just enough to allow the team to think, regroup and reform in a way that will support even greater success in the coming years.