Marseilles-based nonprofit Acta Vista is working toward a brighter future for those excluded from employment.
And that future is built on occupations like stonemasonry, ironworking, joining, roofing, and more that wouldn’t seem a bit out of place in the seventeenth century.
Acta Vista’s inclusionary employment model has cleverly turned a liability of historical heritage sites and monuments—a continual need for inputs of labor to preserve them—into an amazing asset. That asset is an opportunity to provide practical, hands-on, training in useful trades to those with otherwise limited access to employment opportunities.
At Fort d’Entrecasteaux in Marseilles, 98 people each year have a salaried opportunity to learn heritage restoration trades by rotating between work on reconstruction of the fort and professional development in craftwork workshops. Fort d’Entrecasteaux is the upper portion of Fort Saint Nicolas, constructed between 1660 and 1664 at the behest of King Louis XIV and today designated as a Historic Monument. Acta Vista has been involved in restoration works at the fort since 2003.
Nearly three-quarters of those who take part in the program do not hold any degree, and Acta Vista says motivation is the main quality it looks for in participants. The organization supports trainees beyond the workplace, offering support and referrals for health, housing, and other issues. At the end of their training, participants are offered the opportunity to take a relevant professional qualification exam. Nine out of ten pass.
Recently, on European Heritage Days, Acta Vista opened their Marseilles sites to the public. A record number of visitors came out to see the fort and the restoration works—5,300 in one day.
Acta Vista, established in 2002, is active at heritage sites around France, from the Loire to Corsica.