Is heritage the key to the future?

5 April 2019

Working on projects such as the renovation of the Elizabeth Tower brings a sense of duty and privilege

Sir Robert McAlpine is a platinum sponsor of the CIOB Conservation Conference taking place this month. Mike Coleman and Hannah Prowse, operations director and pre-construction manager of Sir Robert McAlpine Special Projects, will be delivering a presentation at the event, entitled “The Heritage Paradox: Can buildings with a long history attract new diverse talent?”. Here they give a taster of what’s to come.

This is one of the greatest opportunities facing the industry right now. To meet the country’s demands and ambition that align with healthy economic growth, construction must become a more appealing, more obvious career choice to young people than it currently is. But how do we attract the diversity and the range of skills we need from the next generation of construction professionals?

As the industry scratches its head in search of solutions to secure the major new builds and defining schemes of the future, the heritage sector could paradoxically emerge as holding the key to solving these perennial issues in its efforts to preserve the legacy of important landmarks of the past.

“Our heritage has an appeal that can excite everyone’s imagination, including that of young girls and boys.”

When considering projects in the heritage and conservation sector, it appears that the teams involved are more diverse and showcase a range of skills and experiences that is way above industry average. What is also striking is the number of young people willing to embark, out of passion, on a career in this sector. They share the drive to learn complex new skills and excel at what they do.

The heritage sector is often synonymous with buildings that have stood the test of time and excite the imagination. When you are assigned to work on the renovation of a world-famous landmark like the Elizabeth Tower or the Royal Albert Hall, you carry a sense of duty that is equal to the privilege you feel and the reverence you receive from people around you. Your family and loved ones want to hear about your experience at work.

The engagement and the fascination these buildings exert fuel passions, excitement, care, creative collaboration – as well as a compulsion for excellence. These landmarks are more emblematic than ever today because they are a true reflection of visionary engineering and exemplary craftsmanship. Our heritage has an appeal that can excite everyone’s imagination, including that of young girls and boys.

Modern construction is our future heritage. If, somehow, we can convey the same degree of critical importance to the role future buildings will play in creating a world we all want to live in, gilded with the same aura of reverence as our treasured patrimony, then we may well make our industry a dramatically more attractive option to a vastly larger and more diverse crowd of talented people.

Conservation, Adaptation & Maintenance of the Built Environment will be held at Church House, Westminster, on 30 April. For details see

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