Historic Trades Training Ramps Up to Meet Growing Demand
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In 1968, the Whitehill Report on Professional and Public Education for Historic Preservation raised concerns about a dearth of tradespeople qualified in historic preservation work. More than a half century later, Nicholas Redding may have a solution, thanks to his Campaign for Historic Trades.
In November, the Maryland Department of Labor approved a first-of-kind group apprenticeship program in historic trades for state registration. The program, sponsored by the campaign, sets standards that include on-the-job learning, related instruction and core competencies. Redding, who is president and CEO of Preservation Maryland, launched the campaign in 2019 to address an issue that has chronically threatened historic preservation efforts.
“No one was raising their hand to take this on,” he recalls. “The Whitehill Report says [the United States] needs to register historic trades for apprenticeships, and people have been wringing their hands about it for the last 50 years, but no one would take the lead.”
While the apprenticeship program directly benefits Preservation Maryland and its partners, Redding hopes to expand it nationally. “The [U.S.] Dept. of Labor encouraged us to get [apprenticeships] approved in Maryland first because Maryland’s process is so thorough that it will make things easier to get done on the federal side,” he says.
Redding wants to change the way the buildings sector views rehabilitation. In a 2022 report, the campaign noted that than 40% of all buildings in the U.S. were built at least 50 years ago, making them potentially eligible for historic designation. The report estimates that historic rehab work creates 165,000 jobs each year, and 60% of those jobs demand preservation skills. “We are not niche … There’s a huge need associated with this kind of work,” Redding says, estimating that 10,000 workers with training in historic trades would need to be added to the nation’s workforce each year to be able to meet workforce needs.
Photo courtesy of Preservation Maryland
Redding has worked in historic preservation since graduating from Shepherd University in 2008, with a bachelor of arts in history and a minor in historic preservation. Since joining Preservation Maryland in 2014, he has helped the organization increase revenue by over 520% and expanded staff by 200%. He also successfully led state advocacy efforts to increase state investment in the Maryland Revitalization Tax Credit.
The Campaign for Historic Trades developed as an outgrowth of Redding’s relationship with the National Parks Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center, based in Frederick, Md. The center provides training in historic preservation for NPS in-house maintenance staff, who are deployed in teams to work on NPS facilities nationwide. During the pandemic lockdowns, Redding worked with Moss Rudley, the training center’s superintendent, to establish the basis of what would become the Maryland apprentice program. Redding and Rudley also pulled together curricula that can be adopted by trade schools to offer courses in historic trades.
Redding says he’s committed to addressing the chronic labor issues of historic trades at the national level. “I’m not one for celebrating victories,” he says. “For me, it’s all about ‘OK, what’s next?’ And that’s what drives me. We have a big task at hand,” he says.
The campaign has already garnered support on a national level. “Under Nick’s leadership, the campaign is leading the charge to ensure more people develop the skills needed to bring new life to older structures across the country,” says Sara Bronin, chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency.
All ENR 2023 Top 25 Newsmakers will be honored at the Award of Excellence Gala on April 11 in New York City.