UNH Extension partners with study of historic preservation workforce in four states

New Hampshire developer Eric Chinburg, right, with Maine developer Tim Harrington at the grand opening of what is now the Lincoln Lofts at Chinburg, in Biddeford, Maine, a historic redevelopment of an apartment building factory. Preservation and economic development officials from New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York are joining in an initiative to build the region’s historic preservation workforce. Photo/Maureen Millikenphoto

DURHAM, NH – The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is spearheading a four-state effort that seeks to find ways to increase the number of tradespeople to work in historic preservation development.

Economic development specialists at UNH Cooperative Extension are conducting the research in conjunction with the Northeast Regional Initiative for the Preservation Trades, a partnership with the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, Maine Preservation, Preservation League of New York State, and Preservation Trust of Vermont.

The goal of the initiative is to advance the training and placement of carpenters, masons and other historic preservation workers with traditional skills, to create a stronger, more diverse and sustainable workforce.

A shortage of preservation craftsmen has limited maintenance, renovation, adaptation to current needs, and other improvements for historic and older buildings. Initiative partners said several factors are driving the shortage – the growing number of buildings at a critical age for repairs in the region, the widespread retirement of tradespeople and trends in rural immigration.

Historic preservation is an economic driver – developers using National Historic Preservation Tax Credits nationwide have raised more than $116.34 billion to preserve 47,000 properties nationwide between 1976 and 2020, according to the National Park Service, which administers the credits.

A historic building in downtown Augusta, Maine is undergoing renovations in 2019. Preservation officials in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York are looking for ways to address a shortage history of labor in the preservation trades. by Maureen Milliken photography

The NPS calls the tax credit program “one of the most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs in the nation.”

But preserving older buildings — even beyond those that qualify for the tax credit program — has a ripple effect, adding to affordable housing, creating jobs and helping to alleviate the climate crisis.

“Tradespeople trained in historic buildings are essential to making more older homes in the North East livable and safe in light of current affordable housing shortages,” said the project website said. “Furthermore, preservation practices can be key to reducing construction/demolition waste, pollution, and consumption of scarce resources, positioning preservation as a valuable strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting environmental goals. climatic.”

In Maine, which has the nation’s oldest housing stock, “We desperately need skilled workers to help us care for our historic fabric,” said Tara Kelly, executive director of Maine Preservation. “It’s important to understand how we can best engage people in rewarding careers in the preservation professions.”

This spring, the project undertook a contextual assessment of the regional preservation trades workforce, training opportunities and initiatives in the Northeast. The current phase is a survey seeking the experiences and perspectives of people in the building trades and historic preservation sector that will help guide the effort. The survey, intended for anyone engaged in historic preservation or the building trades in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York, is available through the end of July and can be available here.

Interviews and focus groups will follow in the fall, with a final report expected by the end of the year. The project is funded by a grant from the Moe Family Fund for Statewide and Local Partners through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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