The title of this article establishes that there is a recognised problem, and that this is being proactively engaged with. Professional archaeologists in the UK do realise that that there is a need for more structured training across-the-board, and the programmes discussed here set out how this need is currently being addressed. However, the issue of archaeological skills and training is not restricted to the UK, and practitioners in this country are seeking to collaborate with European partners in exploring ways in which training issues could be examined and addressed. Currently, the IFA is co-ordinating a bid (on behalf of English Heritage) to the European Commission's Leonardo da Vinci II fund which is seeking support for a transnational project to look at the techniques whereby junior archaeologists are trained in fieldwork skills (Stephenson 2001; 2002). The proposed project will involve archaeologists from the UK, France and the Netherlands working together in the field.
The issue of archaeological skills and training is not restricted to the UK
In the UK, in the immediate future, the dissemination of information related to the occupational standards developed through Defining Professional Functions and Standards in Archaeology will be the next major project, with that work in turn sparking initiatives whereby the standards will be implemented and used. The prioritisation of this agenda does not mean, however, that occupational standards will be seen as a panacea, a monolithic solution to all training problems – but as the profession engages with the standards, this writer believes that they will be found to be increasingly relevant. Collis writes in the Acknowledgements to his article in this issue that he expects the agenda he is setting out for a thesaurus of skills and knowledge will continue to be debated in relation to the occupational standards discussed in this article. But I would disagree - I can see the thesaurus of skills meshing very well with the occupational standards that have been established. The occupational standards define what needs to be learned for particular situations and in what context they can be applied. The skills thesaurus could be applied to the occupational standards-led agenda, by filling out the details of what is needed, what can be learned and, in particular, by considering the different levels of competence which can be achieved.
Overall, it can be seen that the 'crisis of success' is being tackled in a confident way, and that it is to be hoped this will lead to the desired long-term result of a sustainable, skilled profession which is suitably rewarded for developing and maintaining those skills, and those skills are widely appreciated as the historic environment is increasingly valued by society.
Last updated: Tue Sep 10 2002
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