In June 2002, a number of PTN members were among eighty five invited participants from the US and Scotland in the private, non-profit Quinque Foundation’s “International Preservation/Conservation Forum, Setting an Agenda for the 21st Century” at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. The Quinque Symposium was held as a vehicle to identify the key measures in effecting positive change in historic preservation practice. Issues raised by PTN members during working sessions included the history of trades education in North America, and the perception of the “invisibility” of the trades. At the conclusion of the conference, there was a general agreement that these issues required further examination, but no clear consensus emerged on how to proceed.
Following the Quinque Forum, PTN resolved to undertake a program of assessing the evolution and status of the trades in the years since the publication of the 1967 Whitehill Report, the document that first called for specialized historic preservation trades education in America. In 2003 and 2004, PTN held a number of meetings and planning sessions to help clarify some of the issues, perceptions and needs surrounding the role of trades education in conservation of the built environment. The International Trades Education Initiative evolved during a series of strategic planning meetings where it became evident that a retrospective look at the Whitehill Report could not encompass the present state of the trades, and the maturing of the preservation movement over the last thirty years. PTN resolved instead to look forward to the future of the trades. In cooperation with PTN, an international group of preservation industry leaders, trades representatives, and educators are working to develop the Trades Education Initiative. A number of interested trade and preservation oriented organizations have joined the effort making the ITEI a comprehensive attempt to examine the state of the trades worldwide. Craftspeople involved in the conservation process must be skilled in traditional materials, tools, and techniques and knowledgeable of preservation methodologies and conservation. As part of multidisciplinary teams including architects, conservators, and other professionals, trades practitioners participate in decisions—both philosophical and technical—that impact the long-term preservation of the built heritage. There is a growing awareness in the United States and abroad that contemporary trades education is not providing the learning opportunities needed to prepare individuals for the complex challenges that arise when conserving historic sites.
Throughout the world, stakeholders in cultural heritage preservation are working to strengthen existing and create new models for educating the next generation of tradespeople. Although the range of solutions employed to educate and train tradespeople vary, there are common needs and objectives that cross cultural borders, particularly in today’s global environment. As an umbrella organization that unites a variety of trades involved in building and preservation PTN recognizes the need to work with other organizations and non-profits to expand educational opportunities. The International Trades Education Initiative (ITEI) is a means of building an international network of cooperative programs, linking building trades education providers and resources. The 1st International Trades Education Symposium in 2005 was designed as a venue to begin the process of creating this international network. PTN also served as a partner in the World Monuments Fund Traditional Building Arts Training Initiative.
To date five International Trades Education Symposia have been held, ITES 2005 at Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville, Ohio, ITES 2007 in Tällberg, Sweden, ITES 2009 in Leadville, Colorado, ITES 2011, in Lincoln, England, and ITES 2014 in Savannah, Georgia.