Over the course of a challenging year, the Campaign for Historic Trades has continued to invest in the future of this critical training program — and in 2021 this national programmatic effort of Preservation Maryland is poised to improve the future of historic trades training across the nation.
2020: PROGRAMMATIC PAUSE, THEN PIVOT
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.
2021 AND BEYOND: A BOLD PLAN MOVING FORWARD
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:
- Completion of a first-of-its-kind national historic trades’ training landscape survey. This review will look at all existing training programs, with a focus on existing curricula and certification and to identify best practices and models.
- The landscape survey will then directly inform the creation of a first-of-its-kind open-source historic trades training curriculum which will be made available for use by any organization, agency, nonprofit, etc. interested in establishing a program similar to This is something the Campaign hears about from partners nearly every week – and in the coming year this goal will be reached.
- Concurrent with the creation of the curriculum, Preservation Maryland will also lead the effort to formally establish a U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeships for several historic trades’ specialties and historic structure maintenance. This long sought-after goal of the historic preservation movement will unlock millions of dollars in trades’ training funding for organizations, agencies, and nonprofits interested in establishing or sponsoring historic trades’ trainees in their communities. Without this step, most state departments of labor are unable to deploy federal apprenticeship dollars to these programs. Without too much hyperbole, it could be considered the missing piece of the training puzzle.
- Additionally, the Campaign will also support a variety of curriculum development projects on behalf of the National Park Service, including making the Western Center for Historic Preservation (Jackson, WY) B.E.S.T. preservation workshop series readily available for a national audience.
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.
THE FUTURE OF HISTORIC TRADES’ TRAINING
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.