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Subject: Unpaid positions

Unpaid positions

From: Anthea Bisson <amphbisson<-at->
Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I would like to continue the discussion on the situation of unpaid
positions in conservation practice. It was posed in a previous post
that this is unique to conservation and the heritage sector. I fear
that this culture of "internship" (which only 5 years ago was called
work experience at least in Britain) has crept amongst a large
portion of our job market. Whether this is a cause or a symptom of
the current job market I do not know, but it is certainly an
unhealthy habit for any profession to enter into. While I accept the
observations of the previous posts, and agree that all conservators
should heed this warning, I believe it is important to look at the
options to quell this spreading concern.

We now have a well established paid internship scheme run by Icon,
which while it can be funded by HLF is beneficial to both the
establishments that invite interns and the students that attend. The
limitations of funding are a threat to the ongoing success of these
schemes, but the roots have been sown and, if the individual
establishments can be encouraged to at least half-way meet the
costs, a healthy culture of "paid for training" might grow. This
encouragement may well already be happening in the background, and
it is clear from the experience I have of these schemes that the
culture and expectation is changing;  if good work continues in this
directions, universal acceptance on free labour will be quashed to
make may for fruitful "development positions".

It strikes me then, however, that this is a return to the old system
of apprenticeships. Before it was the expectation of most young
people to go to university, apprenticeships offered an excellent way
to learn skills and gain experience in a vocation. "Vocation" and
"apprentice" have become pejorative terms, and the only acceptable
way of learning is to gain that hallowed degree. As university
[education] becomes more universal, the result has been to strip the
value of a degree, and effectively produce many graduates with the
same skills as an apprentice plus a vast debt with which to start
life. How silly! If we can accept that universities can and should
be for academic study and that apprenticeships are for learning and
earning the skills of an art, craft or science, perhaps we would not
only produce more productive, knowledgeable conservators, but feed
our culture with a healthier diet of income, employment and
education.

Anthea Bisson


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Received on Wednesday, 28 November, 2012

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