Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Is a lack of traditional skills putting our heritage at risk? As stone masonry, thatch roofing and restoration skills fall, the demand on existing skilled workers increases, putting the health of our historic buildings at risk.
The building heritage sector is a subset of the main construction industry and it is this niche sector that must attract suitably skilled workers. Bricklaying, carpentry, leadworking and stonemasonry are the areas most in need of an inflow of skilled workers, if estimated demand is to be met, with other dwindling trades including dry stone walling, thatchers, millwrighting and cob walling. The existing workforce is an ageing one and if these vital skills are to be continued existing craftsmen will need to attract apprentices to train and safeguard the future of these trades and crafts. Many entrants into the heritage building sector have trained on the job in the construction industry and learnt over many years the traditional skills passed down from their mentors. They have then re-applied their skills and made the transition into maintaining and restoring historic buildings. The survival of these skills is imperative as is the transfer of knowledge between traditional buildings craftspeople and trades within the new build sector.
What separates the traditional building sector from the modern construction industry is the knowledge and understanding of the original construction materials, the methods of workmanship and the need to preserve and retain as much of the original fabric as possible. Where replacement work is necessary it is undertaken in a sensitive and considered manner in order to preserve the historical balance.
The need for the right training and qualifications has been identified as a high priority. A wide range of training courses exist for contractors and craftspeople of all levels of experience:
CSkills Awards Level 3 Award in Understanding Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Buildings is a two day course which introduces participants to the principles, methods and materials used in building conservation.
Short duration training to reach level 3 can be gained through the Heritage Specialist Apprenticeship Programme.
National Heritage Training Group
Heritage Specialist Apprenticeship Programme.
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
In the last few years the number of people describing themselves as 'self employed' has risen sharply. It seems that recession drives entrepreneurship as people look for ways to make ends meet in a difficult market. Self employment is a fantastic learning curve and very rewarding experience, but many myths abound. Here we address the 10 most common...
1) You'll have a better work/ life balance.
In the beginning at least you will probably be spending more time working than you ever did when employed. Your fledgling business will be your baby and will require a lot of attention whilst you establish yourself and build and maintain a solid reputation. For this reason you should choose to do something you love as you and your new venture will be spending a lot of time together!
2) You'll be your own boss.
Exactly. And you'll probably be a far harsher boss than any other boss you've ever had before. You'll be harder on yourself and push yourself further than any other person could. Worst of all, you can't shut the door on this boss at 5 o'clock. Additionally, you will have clients paying you to complete their work to a high standard and to a deadline, which will effectively make them your boss as well.
3) Build it and they will come.
Unfortunately this just isn't as true as it used to be. There is likely to be a lot of competition out there and people will be reluctant to move away from the familiar. You'll need to spend a good amount of time building your reputation, offering what the competition don't offer and marketing consistently. If you are operating through a website, it will take time to grow SEO. Remember, there will be many other websites offering the same services. Keep up to date with them, see what they are doing and think of how you can better compete with them.
4) You need a BIG idea.
Not at all. You don't need an earth shattering innovation to be self employed, you just need to offer people what they want and do it better, cheaper, differently to everybody else. It is important to know your market and consider what you can offer that no-one else is offering. What can you give your customers that will give you an advantage over the competition? Pique their interest, be great at what you do, constantly improve - don't let things become stale, bring new experiences to your customers, offer great prices or, if you can not compete on price - offer an amazing experience worthy of the cost.
5) You just need to be good at one thing.
In a slight contradiction of point 4, being great at one thing isn't quite enough to run a successful business. You might make the best cupcakes in town, but if you haven't got a head for figures, sales or marketing you may well struggle. But if you are passionate about your business and have a great product/ service, you can always take someone else on, at a cost, to help you with those other things.
6) It will be great to do what you love everyday.
Except on the days when you really don't love doing it anymore or when you question why you gave up on regular employment! Those days will come and pass and you will have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. There will be times when you'll question what you do, or when a certain customer drags you down or when things just don't seem to be going smoothly. The great thing about self employment is that you have complete control. Whatever you don't like about your business you can change, you can constantly innovate and find new ways around problems and you don't have to put up with nuisance or aggressive customers if you don't want to. You are in the position to change the negative factors placed on yourself and your business.
7) It will be lonely.
If you are used to working in a busy office, working alone may seem very isolating and lonely. But within your office environment you were only socialising with the same people day to day, with little variation. However, self employment gives you the opportunity to connect with customers, with other business people - be sure to find local support and networking groups where you can find support and like-minded people who will all have gone through the same things you are experiencing. Attend relevant conferences, workshops or trade-shows and network and build up a good list of contacts. You may even be lucky enough to travel with your work and meet many people outside of your usual circle.
8) I can take more holidays when I'm self employed.
Unfortunately this will not be true for quite some time, even after you've established your business and cash flow you probably wont be taking more holidays than before self employment. In the beginning you will need to spend most of your time establishing a steady and constant flow of income and you won't want to jump on a plane until this is in place. Also remember that, unlike being employed, you wont be paid for holiday leave.
9) Self employment is putting all your eggs in one basket.
Employment of any kind could be described as putting all your eggs in one basket; however you work you are likely to be dedicating all of your time to one job/ company. When self employed, you will hopefully have a good base of (hopefully) returning customers, as well as new ones coming in. One of those clients deciding they no longer wish to work with you is not going to cut off your income. However, when employed it would take only one person (your boss, or their boss) to decide they don't want to work with you, or are no longer able to, and your entire source of income would be cut off. Work hard to build a customer base and work smart to create additional baskets for all those eggs; if you have a bricks and mortar shop, build an e-commerce website to support sales. If the worst should happen with the building, you will still have a method of selling. If you buy in goods, try to source from a range of suppliers incase one lets you down. Whatever your business, consider how you can back up the main elements, should disaster strike.
10) Setting up a business is expensive.
This depends upon the type of business you want to set up and how you choose to market yourself. A website is relatively inexpensive if you can create your own simple but functional site, whereas a high end, super glossy site created by an agency will be much more expensive. If you can recruit new business over the telephone, a plan with unlimited minutes would be very beneficial and save you worrying about the cost of a long telephone call. Advertising in press and magazines will blow your budget, although classifieds will be cheaper - targeting customers who are willing to look through these ads for what they need. Designing your own leaflets and printing at a local print shop is a good option when on a budget. Look out for business listing websites who will give you a basic listing free of charge.