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FAME Conference
Did anyone go to the FAME Skills & Employability conference last week?

Link Here

If so, what did you think? Were there any worthwhile conclusions?
Hi, I gave a presentation at the FAME Forum for the Diggers' Forum, which (once I have written a summary) will be joining the others at: the main feeling I took away from the day was that universities certainly aren't going to be training job-ready professional archaeologists and the profession ought to get used to this and step up to the plate. Several organisations are certainly carrying out excellent training and professional development, and those that don't are going to become unstuck pretty soon. Personally I felt that more employers needed to bite the bullet and start providing time and resources for training, especially for field staff. A lot seem to feel that they already do provide opportunities, but too often they are for the selected few, not the whole site, my paper was basically about how to provide training for the entire site staff so that they can learn new skills and develop, but also develop an awareness of where their career might lead. Unfortunately there was very little discussion, despite some good papers and a lot to talk about.

There was also the Diggers' Forum/Prospect conference in York the next day, which was attended by a wide cross-section of archaeologists from students to unit managers, and where there was a liveley and positive debate on a wide range of issues. I'm hoping the presentations from that conference could also be posted online.
Hi Chiz,

You say that 'universities certainly aren't going to be training job-ready professional archaeologists and the profession ought to get used to this and step up to the plate'. are we different from the - say - other professions in a similar situation, such as engineering...etc...
It's a point I keep making. No other degree course produces job-ready professionals, with the possible exception of medicine (and having friends who've qualified as doctors and nurses over the years, I'd argue that point in most cases). I'm glad to hear that the archaeological industry is finally starting to get the message.
Doctors need several years of post graduate training in order to be able to practice professionally, and that is after having taken a vocational degree which trains you in that particular job.

Archaeology degrees are generally not designed to be vocational, No university prospectus would claim that they are. They are not designed to train you to be an archaeologist, much less an 'excavation-specialising field archaeologist', which is what a lot of people on this forum mean when they say 'archaeologist'.
^Very much agreed.

As far as the medical trade is concerned, a relative of mine as a fresh nursing graduate was given 12-hour overnight shifts on a geriatric ward, with one other member of staff. Pretty routine these days and apparently counts as "post graduate training". As for doctors, whilst interacting with them I've often been reminded of that old joke:

Q: What do you call a doctor who graduated with the lowest mark in the country?
A: "Doctor".
There's a Czech proverb that says 'An inexperienced doctor makes a graveyard lumpy.'

Experienced archaeologists can have the opposite effect.
Can but try }Smile

The only way to learn how to dig holes is by digging holes - the main problem these days seems to be that there is no longer the opportunity for people to spend a few summers 'vol-ing' (I learnt to dig on school holidays) and learning to dig properly in a low-pressure environment like they could back in the '70s and '80s, and I'm afraid it shows. Basic skills like finding proper edges seem to have gone out of the window in favour of producing neat-looking (but often wrong) mass-produced sections and fill-in-all-the-boxes-with-any-old-garbage-as-long-as-it looks-neat-and-no-one's-likely-to-check-the-cross-referencing recording.

Unfortunately this has now been allowed to go on so long that often even the supervisors have the same poor skills, good for 'commercial' archaeology, b****y dire for the profession, certainly academically. I've seen a worrying number of cases (from several units) of paperwork that has been 'checked' but is still ridiculously wrong - why are there people being placed in supervisorial roles if they can't even manage the basics like checking if drawing A is on sheet B? And some of the 'conclusions' allowed through in grey lit reports are farcical (some would say some of mine too)

Ok, you can all shout at me now..... Rolleyes
Blah Blah, rant rant, Oi! Sad!

Is that enough shouting Dino?

Your right though, there is a noticeable skills-drain at work.......but there are no bad pupils, only bad pupils..........and we are all teachers :face-stir:
Gilraen Wrote:Hi Chiz,

You say that 'universities certainly aren't going to be training job-ready professional archaeologists and the profession ought to get used to this and step up to the plate'.

Hi, I'm not saying this is the case, the universities and ATF are saying it; the courses just aren't financially viable, so won't happen, especially now. Universities are now essentially private education and will only give courses that will pay their own way. Vocational archaeology degrees won't. My point is that universities must stop pretending they prepare you for the profession, be honest about their courses and what they do prepare students for, and don't pretend that students will be site ready Diggers at the end of the degree.

Jack, the industry hasn't accepted this though, that's the remaining problem! A few parts of the industry have 'got' the training need (notably public sector quangos like EH), but the contracting side is largely still in denial from what I see out on site. They may 'think' that they provide ad hoc training on site, but there is usually minimal or no support for those put in the position of being trainers, and there is no time given to provide training. Training is usually only for the selected 'prospects' rather than for the masses. That is what needs to change: placing training/learning/enquiry within the working week as a key part of what we do, there are simple ways of embedding the training, and they needn't cost a lot, and will improve quality of work and staff. But it needs a top-down commitment to embed training to make it be anything more than a few individuals doing what they can. The culture of deskilled drop-down box ticking technicians whacking out sections and recording/making it up after they've dug it needs to stop and we need to start addressing poor methodologies and poor execution and stop accepting shoddy work.

It is a cultural change that is needed to address all these issues around training, on all levels, and by all levels.

Dinosaur, unfortunately correctly cross-referencing is often the least of the problems, some form of elementary discussion and thought out interpretation would be good! You are correct that many Diggers and supervisors don't understand that they are doing the job badly, many have never known any other way. It can be the same with other staff on site as well though, such as surveyors, where there is a lack of understanding of the basics, and of what needs to be recorded and what is being missed by deferring to using new technology without using understanding.

To some extent the alleged decline of the 'volly' tradition (that I started on) for pre-undergrads is only part of the problem. I would say there are still opportunities to go and work on digs before uni, although these may cost money where once they were free. And anyone contemplating a career in field archaeology who is able to afford a gap year should try and get at least as much digging in as travelling -or combine both- over that year. The key issue seems to be that undergrads can no longer afford to work on digs through their holidays, they can't afford to work on site for say 6 months over their degree and to consolidate their basic skills and experience (and attitude?). That learning of the basics is now shunted into their first job (if they ever get one), and its up to the commercial contractors to either pay enough to keep established and experienced staff, or set aside the time and resources to train, mentor and develop new entrants.

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