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UK’s industrial heritage under threat says IMechE

03 May 2012

The UK’s industrial heritage is under threat as traditional skills to maintain and operate these artefacts are being lost, according to a new policy statement from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). According to the policy statement, in about 20 years about half of the nation’s industrial artefacts and sites may stop working or be forced to close due to lack of key skills needed to maintain them.

Chairman of the IMechE’s Engineering Heritage Committee John Wood said the UK’s industrial heritage is often overlooked. “The country’s industrial heritage is now under serious threat," he claims. "The majority of these artefacts are maintained and operated by a voluntary and a largely ageing workforce with scarce resources. This means there are limited resources to transfer skills as well as to meet increasingly stringent health and safety legislation.

“We need to take action now to help transfer skills, so that vital techniques and practices to maintain these precious links to our industrial history aren’t lost forever.”

In 2010 the British heritage sector, including the country’s industrial heritage, contributed over £7.4 billion to the economy and provided more than 190,000 full-time jobs.

The policy statement recommends that:

- The industrial heritage sector works together to share best practice. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers would be willing, as an intermediary, to facilitate in the connectivity between societies, either in general or by specialism or issue if requested.

- National organisations act to provide advice and guidance to all industrial heritage societies on how to maintain and preserve artefacts/sites and establish best-practice guidelines. It is in the national interest that these artefacts and sites are maintained, and these organisations are best placed to help establish core values.

- The Department of Culture Media and Sport encourages the relevant national bodies to recognise the importance and potential value of the nation’s industrial heritage.

- The Institution’s membership, where possible, be encouraged to help in the preservation and maintenance of industrial heritage artefacts and sites. The academic and engineering industrial knowledge of the Institution’s 100,000 members is a valuable asset which could assist local organisations in preserving industrial heritage for the future.

The full policy statement can be read online here.

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