Albania has an incredible fund of build culture heritage. Only the World Heritage Sites of Berat and Gjirokastra, declared as museum cities since 1961, list approximately 800 monuments. In 1962, specialized institutions called “conservation ateliers” were established, responsible for maintenance and restoration works on monuments. These institutions employed the most skilled craftsmen and functioned until the beginning of the 1990’s as schools for new apprentices.
However, the skills and knowledge of the master craftsmen who attended these “ateliers” were not formally recognized after the 1990s. As a result, many of them were left out of the labour market, while unemployment still remains a challenge in Albania.
The Project “Skills for Employability of Tomorrow”, which started in December 2016, has contributed to the national effort of enriching the Albanian labour market with highly skilled workers (including young people and returning migrants from EU countries) specializing in the field of cultural heritage conservation. Through its program, it has provided a complete theoretical and practical training in traditional timber, stone and plaster working techniques, in the main historic cities, namely in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Berat and Gjirokastra and in the historic cities of Korça and Durrës.
In addition to these elements, efforts have been made to enhance the value of traditional skills at the institutional and regulatory levels. First, the training curricula for stone, plaster and timber work in traditional buildings has been updated and converted into a national certification standard thanks to the collaboration with the National Agency for Vocational Education and Qualifications NAVETQ. Training curricula is now within the national framework of qualifications and allows Vocational Education Training Centres nationwide to adopt and fully implement the training independently.
Then, CHwB Albania, in a close cooperation with the National Institute of Cultural Heritage in Tirana, has worked to ensure the practical implementation of the bylaw to Cultural Heritage law, specifying a newly set condition for the licensing for conservation companies. In February 2019, CHwB handed in documentation for bylaw, including the condition for companies to employ certified crafts persons. This was accepted by the Ministry of Culture and included in the set of proposed supplementary bylaws within the new Cultural Heritage law. We are yet to receive a confirmation that new bylaw is in place. It is of a paramount importance that this bylaw is properly implemented, as it secures the future employment of all certified craftspeople.
Finally, the Master Craftspeople certified in Traditional Building Crafts through the Skills for Employability of Tomorrow Program were recognized by the National Chamber of Crafts, through a ceremony held in February 2020. This event marked the beginning of a unification process for the certification system, valuable in providing skill recognition and employment opportunities for local craftspeople.