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Catch 22

I graduated as a mature student from the University of Sheffield in 2009 with a BSc Hons (First Class) in Archaeological Science. After reading David Connolly?s Viewpoint on page 59 of Past Horizons Magazine, issue 13, I felt I had to contact him with my own and my fellow graduates? experiences of trying to acquire enough field training to be employable.

Many people, including some undergraduates studying archaeology, are under the impression that once you have a degree qualification you are employable as a field archaeologist. In practice, however, most commercial employers require a minimum of 3-6 months? on-site experience before they consider offering you a job. A clean driving licence and a CSCS card will put you further up the list. Unfortunately, most archaeology degrees only require you to do very little field work to pass, usually 2 weeks or less. Some do have modules which include work experience and field schools abroad (such as those at Sheffield), but these are not compulsory and can often clash with more academic modules which the student may wish to take, as in my case.

Now read on... and consider making some comments there.
Now read on... and consider making some comments there.

but you started the thread thread here. Is this not thread abuse?

(just a taster)

Quote:but these are not compulsory and can often clash with more academic modules which the student may wish to take, as in my case.

presumably you cut your cloth
Reason: your past is my past
This is a very poignant point at the moment in the commercial world, combined with the 'skills drain' caused by a lack of work and many experienced diggers realising that they can earn far more dirving dustbin lorries etc.

Personally I have noticed a dramatic change in the level of archaeological skills in the diggers I get assigned to my excavations. There was a time when I was almost the least experienced digger on the site, and had to draw on and trusted the skills of my team. But now I find myself having to constantly check even the absolute basics of say for instance how to measure the dimensions of a pit, or how to use a level correctly, and with little formal time allowed for training, I'm constantly behind on site.

Because of this I've pushed for the need for more formal assessment and training of diggers skills on-site and the need for this extra time to be factored into the project designs and budgets. This will probably mean (especially in this era of budget squeezing) that there will be less time alloted to actual digging a site and little bits of information will be lost. But at least it will benefit the diggers.

It will take time for this to filter out onto site and become common practice (on our jobs) but I see this as a positive step.

It doesn't bridge the initial university to commertial digger gap though, but I (and many others) see that as a fault in the university system.

Oh and almost forgot to say we are very interested in the 'skills pasport system' and wait in bated breath for it to emerge.
Personally I have noticed a dramatic change in the level of archaeological skills in the diggers I get assigned to my excavations

maybe you should talk to who ever's doing the hiring, maybe you should hire them yourself.
Reason: your past is my past
Hi all,

this sounds like a familiar problem, i refer you to the "new Credentials" post on the fieldwork group....
Where we did discuss this particular problem.

And again i've got to stress on here, that although universities do not prepare you for fieldwork, those students who want to go into fieldwork have more then enough ability to go find the relevant experience themselves, although universities don't tend to be very supportive.

As a year 3, i now have well over a few years field experience on volunteer sites, and even 2 and bit months commercial experience. The sites are out there, but you have to go find them. As for the driving license and CSCS card, students should really be researching these things before leaving uni! To many times have i had to train students who are the year above me field techniques, your not alone, this Really needs to be addressed!

Unitof1 Wrote:maybe you should talk to who ever's doing the hiring, maybe you should hire them yourself.

Unit :Thats not the issue, those doing the hiring hire the best of whats available. The change is in whats available.

Ginger :Yep, in my experience, archaeology is all about forging your own path, not settling for what is spoon-fed. Maybe the universities need to be more supportive to their students in this area.
Most units I've worked for want 3-6 months commercial experience. I've always had the impression that training digs count for nowt when it comes to PM's hiring (although the experience you get doing a training dig is vital). If they're desperate for people on site they'll hire anyone with a degree regardless of experience. If the unit's not desperate then a newly minted graduate's going to be hanging around waiting for his/her 'lucky break'.
3-6 months commercial experience
No its not

you seem to have come out of university having been trained to be a sheep to join a flock/herd of other inadequate workers working for the something called the unit. Why not try being an archaeologist. Go self employed and look for a client. That?s what anybody who is trying to stay in archaeology is doing after having been sacked after many years of experience working for the unit at the moment. Bon chonce
Reason: your past is my past
My experience of university training digs (and talking to colleagues who've had much more recent experience of them) is that the students end up with experience of (a) how things were done in more genteel times (like research excavations in the 1960s and 70s), and, in contrast, detailed knowledge of e.g. state of the art survey and geophysics equipment the likes of which they will never, ever, lay hands on they don't seem to have any useful and relevent skills like trying to micro-excavate a villa with a 45 tonne machine in 2 days cos the curator has f****d-up again - oh, and knowing how to use a tape-measure in an intelligent manner (ok, I was at the same meeting as Jack). If Universities want their graduates to have a job after they get their certificate framed and up on the wall maybe they should try teaching them something useful, the ball's in their court....
Unforyunately for most graduates, its the economy. You're up against a lot of experienced people who are chasing the few jobs. I appreciate this isn't helpful, but thats reality. All archaeologists today have had to get that first commercial job, but that probably tended to be in a flush year.

Ginger's point is valid though, and she'd be the first graduate at the top of the CV pile. Why? She got off her a***e, did some research and put in more effort than most other graduates. Seriously - I thought the point of a degree was research. I certainly researched archaeology jobs (including looking at BAJR in its fledging years!) in my second year (not after I'd left!) and realised that I needed more experience. I did voluntary work in museums, at the local unit, and asked my lecturer if I could stay for the entire training dig (rather than the three weeks you were supposed to do). As a result of the extra time, I became friendly with a supervisor who was a commercial archaeologist who helped me get a job.

The economy is screwed and its not helpful, but in a boom year Ginger would certainly be top of the list. Lack of training doesn't help in Uni, but then most subjects teach "black letter" subjects. In law, after three years you need to spend another 10 grand to get the qualification to be a solivitor or barrister, and then its another 2 years training in a firm to be vaguely competant.

In the days of increased tuition fees, I would expect that more students would complain about the lack of specfic training, as they're going to be paying through the nose for it. Universities really do need to be getting on this. I would like to see (and would have liked when I was a student) the concept that students are customers, and treated as such by Universities. However, doing all of the extra curricular stuff will get you top of the pile.

As my old man often says "you need to be head and shoulders above everyone else to succeed". }Smile

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