Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Training without a training budget

It may seem a bad time for the IfA to be promoting CPD, when for once there really is a rational case for reducing expenditure on training. But much of the entrenched (ho ho) opposition to compulsory CPD schemes over the years has been the result of a misconception that CPD must mean training and training must mean formal expensive courses. For some topics that may be the case, but there is a great deal of value to the individuals and the organisation that can be done at little or no cost.

Sharing expertise

Do all your field staff recognise finds? If not, it would be well worthwile spending an afternoon looking at local pottery types, clay pipe, animal bone, glass. Many recent graduates may have had little opportunity to handle material and learn the diagnostic features.

Make sure everybody in the organisation takes decent photos: this may involve looking at the various cameras you use and what the options mean. Perhaps more importantly, it is a chance to discuss why we take photos and what use they are. It is depressing to think quite how many hours have been spent over the last two decades taking multiple poor photographs of uninteresting features which have each been carefully catalgued and archived.

Most organisations have people working in silos: they may have adjoining offices but have no idea at all what other people do or why. Get them to explain their role. Quite apart from anything else, it's good practice in giving presentations.

Talk about project costings. These shouldn't be mysterious: an understanding of how they are done, and what they eman, may well have an immediate pay-off in attitudes and behaviour, once they realise quite how much money goes on plant hire.

Also, it's easy for organisations to forget that new staff don't know the history: it would be useful for them to know a little about why it was set up, what its major projects have been.

And one thing you can't do enough of is discussing grammar and layout and the real nitty-gritty of report writing.

Goal-orientated learning

Arcaheologists have a long and honourable tradition of teaching themselves new stuff when they need to. This is particularly true of software. Over the last year I have picked up some html, xml, wiki formatting, Powerpoint design, and print-on-demand publishing, because, in each case, I needed or wanted to achive something and so had to work out how to do it. It's true that this reactive type of learning is hard to fit within the CPD framework, although it is possible to some extent to predict areas you might want to develop.

Updating knowledge

Unlike a lot of things for which training is expensive, gathering archaeological information, on developments in Mesolithic studies or Roman urban sites, is free or cheap. Read some books and journals; go to a talk or two. These are real and worthwhile learning activities and, who knows, may even make you better at your job.

With a little imiagination, it's possible to carry out a transfomative training porgramme across an organisation without ever having to write a hundred-pound cheque to an 'expert'.

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