Archaeology graduate, Toby Kendall tells us about how his fieldwork experience on placement year helped him gain a professional role at York Archaeological Trust where he now takes on University of Bradford placement students.
"At the moment I work within York Archaeological Trust. York Archaeological Trust is a registered educational charity, so although we're a contracting unit we also do an awful lot of things on top of what a normal contracting unit would be.
"Because of that we've got flexibility, so instead of just being a standard archaeologist, I also do training digs. and that has been organised at the Bradford end by my former personal tutor whilst I was still at university.
"So sometimes we'll get visits for placements we're looking after, sometimes we'll get visits from the trainees and it's interesting that many of the staff that were there when I was studying are still there. And it's great to catch up actually, see how things have changed.
"I studied at Bradford, I'd taken a year out before I thought about what I'm going to do studies-wise and I looked through the different prospectuses, Bradford was the best place really for me to go, with the science base that they had the fact that it was an industrial placement year, leading to possible employment at the end of it. And also to be honest the people in the department were the quickest to get back to me and the most polite when I was trying to talk about what studies we could do. So it was really useful.
"When I was studying as an undergraduate, you had the option of doing the 4-year course. I did the 4-year course which means that instead of doing 4 years of study you take a year out in the middle. You're still linked with the university and they have a scheme set up where you can either choose from a list or set up your own industrial placement within different archaeological organisations.
"I was very lucky in that I got 2 different placements in different sorts of circumstances, one was in field work and one was working in conservation labs. So basically they have a placement tutor that looks after a lot of the admin side, they'll do a lot of the discussion with the placement organisations. And they just basically give you that hand to get in through the front door. And once you're there, it's surprising how much flexibility you get that doesn't necessarily match what you went to do the placement in.
"So you'll end up sometimes, if you say field work, you may end up working on an awful lot of stuff doing post-excavation. But the team at Bradford are always really good at setting that up. So much so that now that I'm in professional archaeology myself, and I'm able to offer work placements to Bradford undergraduates, I do exactly the same thing to what I was doing in the past.
"When I was studying the 4 year course with the placement year, one of the placements I actually did was at York Archaeological Trust. So I spent 6 months working with the team in the conservation labs. But I also got the chance to do a little bit of field work while I was there, I got the chance to meet a lot of the staff while I was there. So by the time I'd left university, with my other placement and the experience that I'd got with the training projects that I'd been involved with, I left in a situation where I had lots of field experience and contacts. And it was invaluable when it came to looking for work that I ended up getting work in York - near where I lived - with a company that I'd worked for previously.
"Really enjoyed being a student, it was great, I found Bradford a very nice place to be. I found it interesting; loads of interesting people, loads of interesting things to see. A good music scene, good pubs. I got to see loads of bands, I got to go to loads of gigs and loads of clubs that I wanted to. And it just gives you the chance to have a lot of fun without worrying too much about consequences. I don't mean anything illegal or anything like that, but just actually enjoy yourself. Because a lot of people just want to go to university and get everything out of their hair, before they actually, I suppose you could say grow up I guess.
"I graduated with a series of people I know that are still in archaeology, it seemed to be one of the ones, when I was there at Bradford, a lot of the people went into field work. You may find with some other universities that a lot of people do an archaeology degree, but not a lot of people are looking at doing archaeology at the end of it.
"But there's a whole series of us, that, we don't necessarily formally keep in touch, but we'll bump into each other, if we're in the area we'll go see whatever sites they're working on.
And also, because archaeology is so small it's almost incestuous to be honest, everybody ends up knowing what everybody else is doing. And Facebook and things like that have actually been really useful. So, I've met people that I haven't seen for 10 years or so, just randomly, working within the profession. And hopefully that'll carry on because the idea is that we all know each other, we all know what each other's like from many years ago, and it's surprising just how well some people have done. Particularly from Bradford as well.
"I really enjoy what I do at the moment. I don't think my job could get any better. Admittedly I'd love to be digging all the time but because I'm in a position of responsibility I can't - I have to do the paperwork, I have to make sure everything's finished report-wise.
"To be honest, I'm happy where I am now but the future I can see lots and lots of opportunities. And, even if that doesn't come off, in the next 5 or 10 years, if the economy hasn't turned around, archaeology will have changed completely again - which will be exciting."