Conservation Apprenticeships

Work based training to support your career in conservation

Apprenticeships are work based training programmes which combine on the job training, formal learning and paid employment. 

The Government's Trailblazer Apprenticeships came out of the findings of the Richards Review in 2012 which called for a radical overhaul of the delivery of Apprenticeships in England.

This has resulted in the establishment of dedicated employer led groups developing over 200 standards across the full spectrum of professional roles to ensure that learners are being taught the right skills through an appropriately rigorous programme to be competitive in the job market. 

Icon is committed to supporting the development of Apprenticeship Standards for the Conservation Sector. This will ensure that conservators are represented in the development of Standards which may impact upon the profession to embed the Professional Standards at the heart of the new training

  • Support new entrants into the profession
  • Enable employers to maximise access to funding to develop the workforce. 

Having sat on the Historic England led 'Historic Environment' trailblazer group since 2015, Icon has been supporting employers in the Conservation sector in developing standards since early 2017. 



What is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are first and foremost paid jobs which include the following:

Contract of employment
20% off the job training
Minimum of 12 months
Available to all (16 year olds and older)
Delivered from Level 2 (GCSE Level) through to Level 7 (Post graduate)
Include English and Maths where relevant. 

The new standards being developed (a.k.a. Trailblazers) are focused on the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for someone to perform a specific job role. They place a strong emphasis on 'end-point' assessment to ensure that those completing apprenticeships really are fully competent to perform the job role.  The Institute for Apprenticeships has oversight in the development of all Apprenticeship Standards. 

Historic Environment Trailblazer

Trailblazer Apprenticeships are being developed by employer groups who 'bid' for the opportunity to develop standards for specific job roles. They must include at least 10 employers representing the sector, at least 2 of whom must represent small employers.

The Historic Environment trailblazer group is led by Historic England. It is focused on developing Apprenticeships standards for Conservation, Archaeology and Advisory roles within the Heritage Sector, with dedicated working groups supporting the development of standards for each of those areas. 

Conservator Working Group

The Conservator Working Group includes 12 employers from across the Conservation Profession, 

Bristol City Council
Cliveden Conservation
English Heritage
Hall Conservation
Historic Royal Palaces
Holy Well Glass
Museum of London
The National Archives
The University of Manchester
University of Cambridge Museums
Victoria & Albert Museum 

Icon's Role

Icon has been sitting on the Historic Environment trailblazer group for nearly 2 years. In early 2017 Icon brought together the Conservator Working Group, coordinated the group and supported the employers in the development of the Apprenticeship Standards. 


There is a minefield of different terms which are used in the development of Apprenticeships. We have sought to develop the key terms which you may come across. However, if there is something you don't understand we will endeavour to provide an explanation. 






The Conservator Working Group has identified two job roles for which Apprenticeships may be suitable. These are for the roles of Conservation Technician and Conservator. 

These standards were developed to ensure that they match job roles which employers within the sector recognise. Both standards have now been approved. 

Please read below for further detail about the proposed standards. 

Conservation Technician

Conservation Technicians work on a full range of cultural heritage objects or collections, housed in art galleries, libraries, archives, museums, private collections, as well as historic and ancient sites, (internal and external features of a building, but not the building itself). Conservation Technicians have good dexterity and practical skills. They may work across a range of collections, such as, in a historic property or focus on a particular type of collection, such as, time based media.  

The standard was developed based on role descriptions provided by the working group, and has been aligned to the following job roles: [Specialist e.g. Preventive or Collections Care, Paper, Photographic, Time based media] Conservation Technician, Collections Care Assistant, Collections Care Technician.

The final standard can be viewed here


Conservators are specialist practitioners working to protect, preserve and conserve objects or collections of objects housed in archives, art galleries, libraries, museums, private collections, as well as historic and ancient sites. They may also undertake work related to the internal and external features of buildings, such as historic decorative interiors, stained glass windows and sculpture Conservators combine practical skills with skills with knowledge of art history, architecture, science, changing fashions and lifestyles to understand the context of the objects they work with, and to conserve them sensitively and appropriately.‚Äč

The standard has been developed to support the following job roles: Conservator, Specialist Conservator (e.g. Preventive, Paper, Paintings, Metals, Stone, Photographic, Digital Preservation, Time-based media).

The final standard can be viewed here.





If you question hasn't been answered below, please do email [email protected] and we will answer your question and add it to the list. 

What does this mean for existing degree programmes?

The Conservator Apprenticeship is a degree level apprenticeship which must include a full Master's degree.  Several Higher Education institutions are currently in the process of reviewing their programmes to match the requirements of apprenticeship delivery. 

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017. It targets employers who have a pay bill in excess of £3 million per year. This is to be paid at 0.5% of the pay bill less a £15,000 levy allowance. The government will top up the account by 10%, giving a total amount of £11,000 available for the employers to fund their apprenticeship delivery. This is to be held in their own Digital Apprenticeship Service Account. For employers using the levy, the funds will be taken from their digital accounts, and paid to the training provider. Once the funds have been used, it is proposed that they will need to contribute 10% of the funds to the training provider, and the government will fund the rest.

For example, an employer with a pay bill of £5,000,000 will need to spend £10,000 on the levy (i.e. 0.5% x £5 million = £25,000. Then subtracting the allowance of £15,000 gives the £10,000 annual levy). 

For those employers whose pay bill falls below the threshold, there is no requirement to contribute via HRMC as yet. They will be expected to contribute 5% of the funds directly to the training provider, and the government will fund the remaining 95% up to the maximum amount of funding available (NB organisations with fewer than 50 employees will need to make no contribution towards the delivery of apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds). 

Are apprenticeships only for young people?

No, there is no age limit on who can undertake an Apprenticeship provided the person is over 16. 

Does this mean taking on new staff?

Apprentices may well be new staff members, however they don't have to be - it is certainly possible to put existing staff members onto Apprenticeship Programmes. 

What do the levels mean?

Apprenticeships can be delivered from Level 2 through to Level 7.

Level 2: GCSE at Grade A*, A, B or C; O Level A, B or C. 
Level 3: A Levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma, Access to Higher Education Diploma
Level 4: Certificate of Higher Education(CertHE), Higher National Certificate (HNC)
Level 5: Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Higher National Diploma (HND)
Level 6: Bachelor's Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
Level 7: Master's Degree, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma

For the full overview please click here.

Does this apply to all of the UK?

Skills and education are devolved matters. As such, the development of Trailblazer Apprenticeships is currently England only. Icon is willing to support the development of Apprenticeships across the UK.