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Free archaeology
Those of us in the echo chamber that is Twitter have been discussing the impact of unpaid internships and volunteer work in archaeology on the sector. Whilst we may be in danger of disappearing up our own behinds on this topic (and have a look at the hashtag #freearchaeology, if you feel the urge), it would be very interesting to get some input from the forum here. Having looked at the limited data on the subject in various reports and surveys of UK commercial archaeology, this doesn't yet seem an area that sees a lot of unpaid internships - and the IFA has policies about unpaid labour on site etc etc. However, this is an area where those of us at the beginning of a career in archaeology (and I use career with caution, given the likelihood of actually making a living out of it for a lifetime) are increasingly needing to gain an edge in a crowded market for jobs. Working for free and 'learning on the job' - is this a 'thing' for field archaeology's future? Or any part of archaeology or heritage/museums work? Is this something to be expected, if universities don't prepare graduates for the commercial field? Does an unpaid internship bring real benefits to the intern, or is it a cheap way of staffing a project? What happens if you can't afford to take an internship? What are the benefits of employing interns? Is this another aspect of the precarious nature of an archaeological career, and should we just put up and shut up?

You might also like to look at Sam Hardy's blog on Unfree Archaeology and the precarity of the archaeological sector:

Any (polite) thoughts on the subject would be welcome.
This is also another take from Doug... - see I do read you stuff -

Where I stand on this is simple. - though it is complex.

Issue 1. Volunteers in Archaeology - when this is used by the state to cover for what should be paid for. or is used by departments etc to cover their wn lack of manpower. in the guise of hey... lets all have fun... ( but without you, then we would be stuffed - and we are making cash out of you doing the work)

Issue 2. Volunteer in Archaeology - when people have put together a programme in conjunction with a community group (or similar ) to aid their exploration of their own past. As in...( if you the volunteer did not want this to happen, then it would not have been started)

Issue 3 the volunteer / Intern in archaeology : I will er.. cough help you to er.. learn stuff, but in reality you will do all the jobs I don't have the time for, and I must do other things, so therefore I don't have time to train you in anything. er... and 3 months down the line I will get another ...cough unpaid intern. ( that is the one that makes me go GRRRR )

Issue 4. You the volunteer will join me, and although it will mean I spend my time going over stuff, training and mentoring, that does mean I won't pay you, as it is mad to think I will pay you for me to train you. I mean... go figure. Give free training and free advice etc... that is not using to make a profit from you the intern/volunteer, that is preparing you for a career.

It is like all things in life. there is abuse and opportunity. I need to drive to work... do I demand that the driving instructor pays me to learn? should the government pay for my driving licence? same with all the other practical skills. Flip side... Do I as the employer see you the intern as cheap labour/person to carry out work that otherwise I would have to pay sombody to do? ... that is so much pants...

I am afraid students have to realise that opportunities to get experience are either paid or free. but very very rare will you get paid to learn. Though this does mean that the people offering the training and opportunities have a duty... a real duty! to teach, mentor and train. If you come away wondering what you have learned. then you have been taken for a ride.

or am I wrong? :face-huh:
As we move forward in this discussion I think it is important that everyone reviews the relevant UK regulation related to internships: Several of the internships that have come up recently in the UK (particularly the few that threw me over the edge) appear to be illegal under UK law. You can only offer an unpaid internship (a volunteer position) if: 1) Student internships as part of a set course 2) Volunteers for a non-profit 3) School work-placement (only folks under the age of 16) 4) Shadowing, where the intern doesn't actually do work but watches someone else work Yes, most archaeo/museo/heritage things slide in under 2 (but still skirt the line in other ways), but several unpaid "internships" that have come up have been at LTDs, not non-profits. There seems to be no legal way that they can NOT pay those workers. Just throwing that into the mix as we debate the benefits and drawbacks of the unpaid system: unpaid internships are often NOT LEGAL.
I would agree that Unpaid Interns are a very very legally grey area. and the Charity/Commercial area in archaeology is often the greyest of all. How handy to have that backlog of material processed, that dataset cleaned...etc... all for free.

My rule is that if you could employ somebody to do it, and it is part of the day to day work that benefits the company in any way financially... then ... well... !

and thanks for the link to legal rights for interns.
Hmmmmmm. I have both volunteered and worked with volunteers and indeed supervised what are clearly unpaid internships. I would not have done them if I had to pay but valuble experience was gained and someone who did a week with me in the SMR for nothing has just been appointed to a ful time job in an SMR and I gave them a reference. if you go into these things with you eyes open then you will get something of value......if it doesn't work then leave!
I get confused by organisations that are registered charities but undertake paid commercial work. I am intrigued as to how that works.

Internships and volunteering for truely charitable bodies I have no problems with. As I understand it you can be an intern and still claim benefits as long as you are looking for work and are free to take it up if offered I have seen this done and it worked well. You will have to prove you are free for work but that is solved with a letter from the hosting organisation.

My understanding of volunteering is that as soon as you are tied or commited to anything that looks like a contract, especially if there is any payment in kind you are technically employed and have all the rights of an employee. This aplies to verbal as well as written agreements. Charities that rely on volunteers and have years of experience working with them know this and there are very strict guidelines in place when offering volunteer places. A volunteer can walk away at any time without repercussions.

My own experience as a volunteer is that I never volunteer for anything unless it would not get done otherwise. There are lots of projects fall into this catagory. I would never volunteer for any organisation who used my skills to undertake a job that they are getting renumeration for. A very simple rule that has worked well, and as a reliable volunteer I find I am first on the list when the money can be found.

Community archaeology is another ball game altogether.
There is also a 4th alternative I would add to David's list....that is where normally full time professional archaeologists work for free. I would call it the archaeological equivalent of the legal professions pro bono system. I do it frequently for a number of reasons....mainly alturistic, but sometimes because a project really interests me or there is some element of travel involved. I don't think I would do it if I thought I as taking a paid job from someone else or that I am being unduly exploited.....then again I got my start in archaeology as a 'paid' volunteer so I guess I can't say that I didn't take advantage of a similar scenario to that which Lorna outlines...I would suggest though that archaeology does need a new model of employment that recognises the difficulty of securing full time or permanent employment when reliant on speculative funding sources. But hasn't that always been the case......?
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
There's an awful lot of stuff out there that needs doing but which there's no funding for - I've got several things I pick at when I have time, and Seedygirl has a 'fossil' ex-commercial project in her sights, but the full-time employed contingent who are prepared to tackle such stuff are never going to do more than scratch the surface. There's masses of px-type stuff that people could run up some serious quality experience doing with only moderate supervision/training even though there's no money involved, and pad their CVs (maybe even publish stuff - that always looks good, and if it's non-commercial it's still free in most journals). I can think of loads of useful projects I'll never have time for (I've just pointed a PhD research enquiry in the direction of one, she can have it since I'll never have time). Just needs some organising
I note that Sam Hardy has written a great post on legality of unpaid internships/volunteer work in the UK. It is a must read and much more nuanced than the thing I banged out up there:
BAJR Wrote:This is also another take from Doug... - see I do read you stuff -

Why David- I might just blush.

I would just add to the conversation to other pieces. One graduates need to work on their expectations and that university is the biggest #freearchaeology scam? racket? when it comes to getting an archaeology job.

and I would also say that no one needs to undertake freearchaeology to get a job-

My advice to anyone is to volunteer because you like x, y, or z activity not because you want a job. As I explain in the long post lots of employers understand you have no experience AND still hire you. However, jobs are tight and you need to learn how to get a job- that is the experience you need not digging through fluff fluff site at great personal cost to yourself in hopes of getting a job.

Speaking of jobs, I have one now so I need to get some sleep.

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