Presentations from ‘Fit for Purpose?’

This year’s FAME Forum Fit for Purpose? focused on the issue of skills and employability in UK archaeology. Held in association with the Archaeology Training Forum and supported by York Archaeological Trust, it brought together a wide range of practitioners to discuss what skills employers can expect of archaeology graduates, and what can be done to develop these skills once they enter the workplace.

Speakers at this year's Forum (from left): Dominic Perring, Adrian Tindall, Andrew Marvell, Robin Turner, Peter Connelly, Anthony Sinclair, Chiz Harward

Is there room for a professional archaeological curriculum in higher education in the UK? Dr Anthony Sinclair, University of Liverpool/Archaeology Training Forum

UK governments have consistently argued that the country’s future lies in the hands of a population of highly-qualified and well-skilled individuals whose education has been created with a focus on the needs of future industrial sectors and employers.  This would not appear to be the case for archaeology.  This paper will explore the reasons why the academic sector works in the way that it does, and how it is likely to change following the introduction of higher tuition fees in 2012.  It will also set out a series of opportunities for effective future engagement between higher education and the professional archaeological sector over the next 15 years.

How do archaeologists learn their trade and what is the role of universities in teaching vocational skills? Dominic Perring, Director, UCL Centre for Applied Archaeology (incorporating Archaeology South-East)

It is a common complaint that recent archaeology graduates do not have the skills required for archaeological employment. But how realistic is it for us to expect universities to provide essential vocational training? What is the use of an archaeology degree – and what should employers expect of recent graduates? This presentation will draw on the experience of the Institute of Archaeology as both a teaching institute and an employer of professional staff engaged on developer-funded projects.

Training, re-skilling and professional development: developing practical methodologies for better archaeological careers Chiz Harward, The Diggers Forum

This paper will follow on from my recent TAG paper setting out the current problems of deskilling and disengagement in commercial fieldwork (see The Archaeologist 83). It will outline some of the key issues that need to be addressed in order to enable fieldworkers to learn, maintain and develop the necessary skills and knowledge that they will need through the course of their career, however that develops. The paper will look at ways we can ensure that there is a continuum of learning, development and opportunity for all field staff, using examples from the commercial sector.

Knowing how: sharing and sustaining skills in a skills-based organisation Robin Turner, Head of Survey and Recording, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland has an international reputation for the quality of its fieldwork and the dissemination of the information it holds, but little of this is taught at university. So how do people reach the levels of skill, knowledge and expertise they need to equip them to produce the highest quality results? This case study will examine the many ways in which the organisation shares its skills, from schools, universities and community groups, to fellow professionals and particularly to its own staff in terms of the critically important process of succession planning.

Acquiring training Andrew Marvell, Chief Executive Officer, Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust

The practice of archaeology in the UK has been transformed in a generation. We are now a profession. The employers of archaeologists, particularly those who are the principal officers in IfA Registered Organisations, inhabit a different world to that in which many of them first worked. Collectively they represent a particular pool of expertise, skills and knowledge. How will this capacity be transferred? Can the profession as a whole succession plan?

Do we need to recognise more clearly the difference between technical and professional skills in the discipline? Should structured workplace learning become the norm and should validated attainment be linked to professional accreditation? Would this give confidence to the archaeological marketplace? How many people would need to go through early structured career learning each year? Would schemes like those used by other professions be appropriate? How well set up are we to deliver these?

Training excavations – what are they good for? Peter Connolly, Director of Archaeology (York), York Archaeological Trust

It can be all too easy to focus upon trainee outcomes on training excavations at the expense of what the trainer or the manager will get out of such exercises. By re-focusing on the advantages of training excavations for the whole of the archaeological sector in this paper I shall reflect upon the development opportunities that training excavations provide for archaeologists looking to progress from the trench to the chief executives office.

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