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UK archaeology forecast shows mixed outlook

Landward Research Ltd recently completed a report on the State of the Archaeological Market in the UK. There is both good news and bad news for the state of professional archaeology. Job losses have stabilized since the the recession but they are still down 800 positions (5,900) from pre-crash levels (6,700), though these numbers do not take into account the potential growth in jobs had the recession not occurred. Looking at the Profiling the Profession reports (provided at the Landward Website) between 2002-03 and 2007-08, employment increased by 20 percent. Had that trend continued, there would currently be around 8000 archaeology jobs in the UK. This puts the actual losses at closer to 2,000 jobs. This larger number probably explains the tough competition among recent graduates and veterans for jobs, there are five years of students who have not been able to obtain jobs except from positions created by the retirement of archaeologists.

When asked if the employment situation will improve, the report shows that the opinions expressed by commercial companies and other organizations are split. Read more…

UK tax code change could hurt historic preservation

The recently announced Chancellor’s Budget in the UK includes a proposal to increase the VAT from 0 to 20 percent for the alteration and maintenance of listed buildings. This will put a heavy financial burden on those that own or maintain historic listed buildings.

While not every building alteration on a listed building requires specialized historical preservation skills, many projects do  for at least some aspects. An increase of 20 percent for project costs may cause some repair projects to be postponed or shelved. This in turn may have a knock-on effect for those employed in the historic preservation sector. It may also hurt other sectors such as heritage and museum management. Sites and museums would see their maintenance costs increase forcing them to reallocate funds from other areas of their budgets. Though these results are hypothetical, and it is unknown at the moment what problems the tax increase might bring, the Council for British Archaeology is “urging its members to make their views on this known and also to sign the online petition.”

Full details can be found at the HM Revenue & Customs website and consultation on the proposed changes has been put up by the CBA (p. 23), which is open until 4 May 2012.

Another look at employment and market share

A very thoughtful comment was made about HBJ post Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms (18 Feb 2012):

“Large multi-service firms tend hire and terminate for each project because their offices rarely have enough local work to retain technicians. They tend to have centralized full time labs and production centers that do not have positions for techs for after fieldwork tasks. Whereas many hertiage-only company like CRA use full-time technicians in a variety of tasks. The ability to live near a company’s office(s) to come in and do post-fieldwork tasks is the key to full time work. In addition the ability to move techs and other staff between offices reduce the need for temporary project specific techs except for the largest field projects. Plus in any given year we receive enough cold call applicants from technicians with good resumes that simply working the resume file drawer eliminates the need for an ad for most projects.”
Steve Creasman and Kay Simpson

A high turnover of technicians in multi-service firms could easily explain why there are more job advertisements from these types of companies than from heritage-only firms. To explore this more, I also took a look at senior positions (e.g. principle investigators, senior archaeologists, office/regional managers) for the same 2011 data set. Of course titles are not standardized across the sector and names can be misleading, but a full 46% of the job advertisements reviewed asked for 10-25 years of experience and 55% asked for 5-9 years of experience (a slight overlap with some asking for 8-12 years). The job descriptions and requirements (years of experience, permits, etc.) firmly place these jobs in the top levels of employment regardless of title. None of these jobs mentioned temporary employment but that does not mean it is not. However, asking for 20 years of experience for a temporary job would be rare but not unheard of (or it should be in my personal opinion). Out of 79 job postings, 61 of them mentioned their employers (some of the job postings have been removed making it impossible to see who was the employer). In this data set the breakdown is even more lopsided in favor of multi-service firms

Heritage-only firms may look for their top-level workers through other means than advertisement such as internal promotion or through professional networks. A lack of lower level positions in multi-service firms may make it hard for them to recruit internally. What these data do show is that the majority of job advertisements for archaeologists at all career levels was dominated by multi-service firms in 2011. Does this mean they get the majority of business? That can not be determined from these numbers but employment may indicate strong growth prospects.

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