2.0 Background

Archaeological employers find it difficult to get the staff they need owing to the underskilled nature of those that are seeking work. This is not a new issue; it has long been recognised that, while very well educated (91% of professional archaeologists in the UK are graduates: Chitty 1999), archaeologists are generally under-skilled (Hardy 1997). This lack of linkage between education and skills is primarily because undergraduate education in archaeology is not designed to equip individuals to enter directly into the workplace without further training, although the training that is provided to undergraduate students is still an essential element in professional formation. The issues that have affected the nature of higher education in the UK, and what this has meant for archaeology, are discussed in detail under basic training. The solution to this problem, in the most fundamental of terms, is for the profession to invest in the vocational training of practitioners.

While very well educated archaeologists are generally under-skilled - the solution is for the profession to invest in the vocational training of practitioners

Investment in training will deliver multiple benefits to archaeological organisations. Firstly, this would enhance and guarantee the quality of the work being undertaken by archaeologists, presenting ways that archaeological work can be shown to provide better value for the other stakeholders in their work - whether financial, governmental or public. Quality assurance will be ensured through organisations being able to demonstrate that staff are trained to an independently monitored high standard, potentially allowing organisations to seek accreditation such as ISO 9000:2000 (quality management systems: requirements) and Investors in People status.

Secondly, this would lead to the retention of a skilled workforce. While the shortage of skilled workers is the present problem, the haemorrhaging of human resources has been another key issue, as young archaeologists become dissatisfied with the employment structures within which they find themselves, and eventually leave the profession. Over the past twenty years, there has been a steady supply of archaeology graduates seeking employment within the profession; many of these people become disillusioned with the difficulties they have in finding employment (largely due to their lack of experience - their underskilled status), and then the unsatisfactory levels of pay and conditions that they encounter when they do find a job (Aitchison 1996). While many greatly enjoy the work they are doing, it is recognised that ‘job satisfaction doesn’t pay the rent’ (Fahy 1985). Financial recognition for work done has long been an archaeological bugbear, which Turner (1996, 8) described as a legacy of the 1970s volunteer culture, and which can still be seen as hampering the professionalisation of archaeology.

The Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA), as the professional association for archaeologists, is committed to improving the skills and standing of professional archaeologists. The Institute's objectives and programme have led it to work in partnership with other organisations in this endeavour, although until the last five years it could be argued that this had been done on an ad-hoc basis. Now, by taking advantage of governmental initiatives, a series of major and ambitious projects have been launched under the auspices of the Archaeology Training Forum, with the medium and long-term goals being the development of a skilled, professional and sustainable workforce.


Last updated: Tue Sep 10 2002

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