The important thing about this system is the wide range of contexts in which it can be used.

Self description

At various times we need to be able to describe ourselves and our competencies: when we are applying for a new post, when planning our careers and looking at the gaps in our knowledge. The Thesaurus will allow us to make an honest appraisal of ourselves, and help us define ourselves in terms of 'Occupational Standards'.

Staff development and training

Definition of training should not be vague. 'Learn more about AutoCAD' is a good way to ensure your employer will throw your request for training into the wastepaper basket. The Thesaurus, and especially the different levels, will allow us to define progress more exactly ('I will progress from level 2 to level 3').

Course descriptions

This will be especially useful for those intending to take a course as it will define exactly what is on offer, and allow the final result to be compared with what was promised. It is also useful, for instance, in degree courses, to allow students and colleagues to know exactly what is covered in a course. Students are taught 'Theory' but to what extent does this cover, say, the history of ideas, or such approaches as 'Central Place Theory', or 'World Systems', or does it concentrate on 'Post-Processual' approaches; no course can hope to cover everything in the same depth, and the Thesaurus will not only allow a description of what is covered, but make clear the omissions, deliberate or otherwise, which can then be picked up in other courses.

Occupational standards

To perform a job we have to play a number of roles, and these can be defined in terms of levels of skills, which will often be a combination of archaeological and 'transferable' or 'general' skills. At the time of writing the Culture Heritage National Training Organisation and the IFA are conducting a study of Roles and Skills throughout the archaeological profession in Britain, which will lead to the writing of Occupational Standards (Carter and Robertson forthcoming).

Describing career paths

Once we have the Occupational Standards, it will then be possible to chart career paths, so that individuals can see more clearly what sorts of training are essential if they are to move upwards, or sideways, through the system.

Auditing the skills base of an organisation

Organisations need periodically to review the skills that their individual members possess, to define the gaps within the organisation, and decide how to fill them, or where training is needed to keep them up-to-date. They may even want to advertise their expertise (just as garages proclaim the skills of their mechanics by hanging their certificates on the wall).

Defining the skills needs for a project

For all projects, but especially where special expertise may be needed, the Curator may wish to advertise the skills that are essential for a specific project, and competing organisations demonstrate that their personnel do in fact possess those skills.

Preparing employment contracts

The IFA encourages all organisations registered with it (Registered Archaeological Organisations - RAOs) to include training in all posts, and that this should be spelt out in all employment contracts. This is especially important for short-term contracts, where the training element is often suppressed to save money; in long-term contracts, the training should be reviewed annually as part of the Staff Review. This training can be described in terms of the Thesaurus and the various levels of competence.

Defining levels of membership within the professional institute

The IFA Validation Committee is at present reviewing the way in which Occupational Standards could be made to work for the different levels of membership of the IFA, and it will also form part of the log of CPD which all members will have to keep.

A database of national expertise

Some skills are in demand or in short supply; someone to identify Roman coins, samian pottery, phytoliths, deal with legal problems. It would be useful to have a database of such individuals, at levels 4 and 5, who could then be approached by those seeking reports or informed advice. It would also allow us to identify areas where there is a shortage (e.g. at present, in samian pottery or Roman mortaria). The IFA Validation Committee is exploring ways in which such a database could be set up and maintained (could it be used as a form of advertising, and so a charge be made for inclusion, or is it a service which the IFA could offer to its members free of charge?). It would not be worth including the common skills such as use of the dumpy level.


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Last updated: Mon Jul 29 2002