My experience as the first Hal Dalwood Memorial bursary holder at CIfA2017

Earlier this year I was fortunate to be selected to receive the Hal Dalwood Memorial Bursary to attend the 2017 CIfA Annual Conference. This bursary is designed to enable early career archaeologists to attend the conference, and engage in practical, theoretical and ethical debates surrounding our sector.

I began working in archaeology in 2015, and have since worked in fieldwork and community departments in the commercial sector. I am currently based at AOC Archaeology, where I have been working since early 2016. I was also successful in becoming a PCIfA later in 2016, and as such this opportunity offered many chances to engage with CIfA as well as a variety of national and international projects.

The programme itself was packed full of interesting and exciting sessions, from large scale infrastructure projects, to skills, accreditation and opportunities for CPD. As a recently accredited PCIfA, this allowed me to update my CPD log and become more aware of my skills. I was particularly interested in sessions about skills, accessibility and engagement, hoping these would provide examples of best practice to inform my own work.

Attending the session on Understanding skills and measuring competence in archaeology raised some interesting questions over where responsibility lies for practical archaeological training and skill acquisition in Higher Education as well as the importance of CPD for individuals. This felt especially relevant as I work in Scotland, tying in with Aim 5 of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy to equip our workforce with appropriate skills. It gave me further motivation to ensure I manage my development, and proactively seek opportunities to develop not just my practical skills, but my perspectives, mind-set and approaches.

A great example of a session designed to challenge our perspectives, mind-sets and approaches was organised by Enabled Archaeology and Access to archaeology: how are we making archaeology accessible to all? This session gave insight as to how commercial companies are becoming more aware of equality and diversity of their workplace, as well as inclusivity to visually impaired volunteers and recovery opportunities for service personnel (Operation Nightingale). Hearing accounts of involvement for those who may have previously been excluded was inspiring and helped me reflect on my own approaches to volunteers on archaeological sites, thinking about how I could make improvements to the accessibility of opportunities in archaeology.

Amec Foster Wheeler’s session on reporting, publication and engagement encouraged reflection on how to disseminate results of projects in a changing world, as well as the issues and difficulties surrounding these practices, such as access and technological barriers. This session complemented Social Value UK’s Understanding social benefit workshop, which truly was an exercise for the brain! This session was designed to help reflect on the social impact of projects, and the methods of measuring this to ensure the highest level of impact from the resources a project may have.

The whole conference was a great experience to learn from others and feel part of a much bigger picture. I met delegates from all stages of their careers and heard about their exciting pasts, and ongoing and future projects. I would thoroughly recommend any early career archaeologist who is passionate about learning, skills acquisition and our sector to attend the conference and to also think about applying for bursary support from CIfA. It really helped me feel more engaged, passionate and enthused about the work I do, and I am grateful for this opportunity.