Ancient occupations like stonemasonry and heritage carpentry could be lost forever if the UK fails to address its skills shortages, says a national training body.

The Heritage Craft Alliance (HCA), which provides accredited training to upskill the next generation of craftspeople, says 40,000 professionals are due to retire in the next decade.

There is already a desperate shortage of qualified craftspeople, according to the HCA, and the situation is set to worsen over the next decade putting historic trades and the expert preservation of ancient buildings at risk.

In response to the threat, the Heritage Craft Alliance has developed an apprenticeship starting in Cornwall next month which covers all masonry and wood occupations.

The nationally accredited Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Traditional Craft Skills lasts 17 months and is being delivered in partnership with the Eden Project.

The Apprenticeship, which has traditionally operated from North Yorkshire, has been extended to the South West to prepare craftspeople to work on the region’s abundance of older and historic buildings.

Glenn Young, director at the Heritage Craft Alliance, said: “With more than half a million buildings in the UK having heritage status, there’s a huge business opportunity for companies able to demonstrate heritage trades and skills.

“Employers can charge up to 30% more for heritage work and helping your staff to gain specialist qualifications really does give you a competitive advantage.”

For more information about the apprenticeships and the benefits to employers, click here.