The Future of Archaeological Training and Career Development: roles and skills in archaeology

Starting this Friday (16 May) there will be a special e-conference taking place on the britarch-debates email discussion list concerning the future of archaeological training and career development.

To join the list in order to participate in the e-conference go to:
or send an email message to [log in to unmask] with 'join britarch-debates' in the body of the email (and nothing else)

You can also follow the e-conference through the web archive of messages at:

The e-conference forms part of a major consultation by the Archaeology Training Forum (ATF).

The ATF is running a consultation about the future of archaeological training and career development. So far this has taken the form of a series of open meetings around the country and a publicity leaflet about the newly approved National Occupational Standards in Archaeological Practice which has been widely distributed. The standards give us the opportunity to create a structure for training and qualification that will

* gain recognition for our skills and experience;
* improve conditions of employment;
* set standards for best practice in archaeological work.

We are now moving on to a new phase of this consultation, a 3-week on-line debate that gives us an opportunity to publicise the themes which have emerged from the meetings and from written comments and to seek your views on the best way forward for the sector to address its training needs.


Colleagues, clients, funding bodies, and course providers are increasingly relying on archaeologists to demonstrate that they have agreed standards for archaeological practice. Among employers, UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and in the European Union there is a growing requirement for professions to have recognised standards.

We can no longer carry on with a situation where anyone can practice as, and call themselves, an archaeologist, either as professionals or volunteers. To safeguard the archaeological heritage and promote our discipline, we need a way of demonstrating competence in archaeological skills - as is done in many other occupations. For the individual archaeologist, having recognised standards will make it easier to identify training needs and ways to improve his or her skills.

Why Occupational standards?

Occupational Standards form the basis of the Government's strategy for vocational qualifications and training. Put simply, they describe what competent people in a particular occupation should be able to achieve. They provide a framework for progression beyond degree level, for vocational training and for professional development and career planning. They give us a benchmark, describing what someone who is qualified to practise should be able to do, whether professional or volunteer. 

To focus discussion we have identified some options as to how we could use the standards. They give us the basis for:

* vocational training courses and awards based on the occupational standards, co-ordinated and approved by an appropriate body;
* National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (NVQs/SVQs) based on performance in the workplace, a portfolio of work and interview;
* professional qualifications from an independent awarding body, linking higher education courses with placements for work experience, a period of supervised postgraduate practice and portfolio or logbook; 
* formal entry to the IFA as a professional qualification, either using an existing system (like NVQs/SVQs or approved higher education courses), or by developing an assessment arrangement with an independent awarding body. 

These choices are not mutually exclusive and other options could emerge out of discussion. For example, it may be that separate mechanisms could be identified for providing accreditation of the skills possessed by the voluntary sector. The important thing is to arrive at a way forward which meets the needs of all sectors and can be achieved in a reasonable timescale.

This is your opportunity to think about the issues, make your views known, and influence the way that archaeological practice develops for the future. We are keen to hear from all groups within the discipline, professional and voluntary, and from all levels, those just starting out in their careers and those with a wealth of experience behind them.

The structure of the e-conference

The e-conference will be divided into several sessions, as follows:

Introduction to e-conference - Friday (16 May)
Theme A: "Structured Training in the Workplace" (19-21 May)
Theme B: "Balancing Occupational Competence and Academic Understanding" (22-26 May)
Theme C: "Vocational Training in University Taught Courses" (27-28 May)
Theme D: "Economic Realities - Opportunities and the Affordability of Training" (29 May-1 June)
Theme E: "Meeting the Training Needs of the Voluntary Sector" (2-4 June)
Theme F: "Flexible and Modular Routes to Accredited Qualifications" (5-8 June)
Summary and closure - Monday 9 June

Kenneth Aitchison, Head of Training and Standards with the Institute of Field Archaeologists, (email [log in to unmask]) will be the Convenor for the e-conference with other ATF members participating and helping to lead the discussion for particular sessions.

If you have any queries about the technical aspects of the e-conference please contact Mike Heyworth at the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), who will be hosting the event, using the email address [log in to unmask]

This debate will run until 9th June and a brief report on the whole consultation process will be submitted to the next ATF meeting on 16th July. The main purpose of that meeting is to agree the future programme for ATF for the next three years. This is your chance to influence this strategy, and I urge you to take it!

Bob Hook
Archaeology Training Forum
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