A thatcher working on a roof.
Heritage needs skilled workers. Research helps identify and shape the future workforce. Andrew Osmond, thatcher, Dorset © Historic England, James O. Davies, image reference, DP195134.
Heritage needs skilled workers. Research helps identify and shape the future workforce. Andrew Osmond, thatcher, Dorset © Historic England, James O. Davies, image reference, DP195134.

Research Theme #Skill

We need to understand our sector, its strategic aims, composition, organisation, capacity and threats. Research includes understanding the profile of those employed in the heritage professions, labour market intelligence, and training and knowledge needs analysis, as well as understanding commercial practice and community engagement. This will inform and focus our support for our sector and the services it delivers.

We have divided this theme into two main topics:

Developing the workforce

The sector needs a workforce with the right skills - skills to investigate the nation’s heritage, so its significance can be identified; to manage it, so the right decisions can be taken about the future of heritage assets; and to maintain them in good condition, or repair them when required. If these skills are absent, or if they are in short supply, we need to know. ‘Labour market intelligence’ is the study of the supply of and demand for the heritage workforce to see who is doing what, how many are working in the sector, and whether there are any shortages or gaps in skills available. It also highlights the benefit the heritage sector provides to the national economy as an employment sector, providing a wide range of roles including practical and craft-based roles, as well as specialist graduate and postgraduate employees in consultancies, sole traders, commercial practice, local and national government roles. Existing reports set out the composition, skills gaps and recommendations for various subsectors.

Research will have impact if it provides foresight and evidence about skills supply, and demand, to inform forward planning across the sector, so appropriate action may be taken.

Research questions that will help our mission include:

  • What is the composition of the historic environment and broader heritage workforce?
  • What are the trends in employment and the key skills gaps or shortages for the different areas of historic environment employment and activity?
  • What are the best models for ensuring clear career pathways into the heritage sector?

A recent example of labour market research is The State of the Archaeological Market 2018 report. This  examines the state of the market for archaeological services in 2017-18. It was compiled by Kenneth Aitchison of Landward research Ltd, on behalf of Historic England, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers.

Find out more about our labour market intelligence research

See our training offer

Working more effectively

The heritage sector benefits from the varied and profound expertise of many organisations and individuals. They are the owners of heritage assets, the commercial specialists in private practice, the researchers and educators in higher education, the officers in local and national government, and volunteers in the third sector. They may be heritage sector specialists, or work within much larger activities such as construction, agriculture, planning and tourism. This remarkable diversity offers both a massive strength and significant challenges of integration. There is scope for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the sector as a whole to make the best use of the resources available and maximise the benefit to society.

Research will have impact if it improves processes, management, delivery and articulation of historic environment work both within the heritage sector and as part of related sectors. It will support decision-making, increase cost-effectiveness, maximise research value and enhance public benefit. We will see a more effective, cohesive and robust sector.

   Research questions that will help our mission include:

  • What commercial and fiscal models exist which could provide increased market sustainability, encourage investment, provide client benefit, and reduce risk?
  • How can we improve the research infrastructure to support knowledge transfer across the heritage sector and improve partnership working?
  • What benchmarks and approaches can be developed to improve standards of work where needed and demonstrate the impact of investigative research in the historic environment?
  • How can we develop a sustainable and productive future for archaeological archives?
  • What are the implications for local government decision-making of changing and reduced funding? What models for service delivery will be most sustainable?

An example of the work we are doing in this area is the joint Chartered Institute for Archaeologists  and Historic England '21st Century Challenges for Archaeology' project, which looks at working more effectively in that part of the sector.

Find out about the 21st Century Challenges for Archaeology project

Collaborate with us

If you'd like to collaborate with us on this theme please use the contact address below to get in touch.