As part of the Skills theme of our Sector Resilience Interview series, we heard Cara Jones, Sector Skills Manager at the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA). Cara shares how taking a joined-up approach and sharing good practice across UK nations is a key part of CIfA’s skills strategy for archaeology.
Read on to find out more.
Cara, tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the heritage sector.

I am the Sector Skills Manager at the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) which is the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas. We promote high professional standards and strong ethics in archaeological practice, to maximise the benefits that archaeologists bring to society. We are the authoritative and effective voice for archaeologists, bringing recognition and respect to our profession.

We believe that to maximise the value of archaeology, it needs to be carried out with professionalism, which in turn can help attract diverse talent and support career development. Our strategic skills work helps support the active delivery of these beliefs.

What can you tell us about CIfA’s strategic skills work? What does it aim to achieve?

The Sector Skills Manager post is a relatively new role but brings together our strategic skills work from across the UK – from leading on Aim 5 (Skills and Innovation) of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy, to being a member of the steering group for the Historic Environment Skills Forum.

It is allowing CIfA to take a more strategic approach to skill development work and share great practice across the UK. This includes the development of apprenticeships and new qualifications – both designed to support new entry routes into the profession and help address skill gaps.

What contribution will this work make towards the resilience of the heritage sector?

Skill development is a devolved matter; however, archaeologists work across borders, so our skill development work should too. CIfA’s UK wide remit allows different work strands from across the Home Nations to inform and inspire actions and initiatives in all corners of the UK. For example, data collection (on skills needs) in Scotland (as part of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy) is helping inform data collection practice in Northern Ireland (associated with the Archaeology 2030 archaeology strategy). Lessons learned during the (apprenticeship) Trailblazer process in England is helping inform apprenticeship development in Scotland. The experience we have developed supporting the delivery of the Skills Investment Plan in Scotland, is now being applied to the Historic Environment Skills Forum. I could go on!

Ultimately, this joined up approach will help save time, resource, capitalise on shared expertise and enable standardised development processes to take place in all areas of the UK.

What does success look like?  Do you have plans to measure this?

On a personal level, I hope that in 10 to 15 years’ time, there will be multiple entry routes into careers in archaeology, enabling access for anyone who wants to join the profession.

The lack of diversity within the profession is still an acute issue – developing different entry routes can support more diverse candidates into archaeology. There is obviously a lot of work to do to keep them in archaeology – professional development initiatives have a large role to play there too. All of this takes time though, there is no overnight quick fix and any evaluative measures needs to take that into account. As the professional institute for archaeologists, CIfA is able to take that long-term view and monitor (hopefully positive!) change.

How can colleagues find out more, or get involved?

One easy step is to join the Historic Environment Skills Forum Knowledge Hub – we have just started with a series of webinars focused on skills. We would love to see you all there!

Overall, what do you think is most crucial for ensuring a resilient heritage sector?

Sub-sector collaboration! I passionately believe that skill development initiatives can be one element of solving some of the big issues in archaeology, however that requires partnership working and collaboration from all of us!

This Sector Resilience interview was shared by Cara Jones as part of our Heritage Sector Resilience Plan activities. 

If you’d like to contribute an interview as part of the series, follow the link below to find out more:

Sector Resilience Interviews – Historic Environment Forum