We recently caught up with Stephen Maclean from Firth Plumbing, Heating and Roofing Ltd to find out about his involvement with the Inverness Townscape Heritage Project and about the boom he is experiencing in the need for apprentices skilled in traditional craftsmanship.
Stephen was recently one of our experts on hand at the Traditional Building Skills – Traditional roof repair, slating, leadwork and rainwater goods event held at the Old High Church in April.
He explains: “I was there to talk about leadwork. I shared our ‘bible’ in the trade which is Rolled Lead Sheet – the complete manual, produced by the Lead Sheet Association. We refer to this for everything related to lead and roofing, so I highly recommend it.”
When he’s not sharing his knowledge about roofing with homeowners, Stephen leads a team of 22 people working across Scotland. In the 12 years the business has been operating, Firth has trained 13 apprentices. In recent years, Stephen has noticed an increase in demand for tradesmen experienced in traditional craftsmanship and with that a need to bring more young people into the industry via apprenticeships.
“We are really busy and a lot of our work is increasingly coming from the restoration side of things. Whether it’s stately homes, castles or churches there is a need for tradesmen skilled in traditional crafts like roofing.
“For the first time, we took on an apprentice specifically for roofing. Kieran MacTavish joined us and is close to completing his four-year apprenticeship. In the time he has been with us, he has been working predominantly with traditional Scottish slate, which is unusual and a real privilege for him. He was hands-on in re-roofing parts of Eilean Donan Castle and will also be involved in a new project at the castle, a visitor centre which will be slated with Caithness Stone.
“Although his apprenticeship covers all aspects of roofing including slating and roof tiling, plastering and harling, he has almost developed a niche already in traditional slate roofing. It is something he really enjoys.”
Kieran adds: “I’ve been lucky enough to work on some really amazing projects such as Eilean Donan Castle, it is great to be working on buildings that are part of our history.”
Stephen concludes that there are some great opportunities for young people in the Highlands to work in the building and construction industry and would encourage school pupils to consider apprenticeships as a potential path to a fulfilling career.
Find out more about the Inverness Townscape Heritage Project employability scheme here.
Photo: Kieran MacTavish