We need to understand our sector, its strategic aims, composition, organisation, capacity and threats. Research includes understanding the profile of those employed in the heritage professions, labour market intelligence, and training and knowledge needs analysis, as well as understanding commercial practice and community engagement. This will inform and focus our support for our sector and the services it delivers.
The sector needs a workforce with the right skills – skills to investigate the nation’s heritage, so its significance can be identified; to manage it, so the right decisions can be taken about the future of heritage assets; and to maintain them in good condition, or repair them when required. If these skills are absent, or if they are in short supply, we need to know. ‘Labour market intelligence’ is the study of the supply of and demand for the heritage workforce to see who is doing what, how many are working in the sector, and whether there are any shortages or gaps in skills available. It also highlights the benefit the heritage sector provides to the national economy as an employment sector, providing a wide range of roles including practical and craftbased roles, as well as specialist graduate and postgraduate employees in consultancies, sole traders, commercial practice, local and national government roles. Existing reports set out the composition, skills gaps and recommendations for various subsectors.
Research will have impact if it provides foresight and evidence about skills supply, and demand, to inform forward planning across the sector, so appropriate action may be taken.
The heritage sector benefits from the varied and profound expertise of many organisations and individuals. They are the owners of heritage assets, the commercial specialists in private practice, the researchers and educators in higher education, the officers in local and national government, and volunteers in the third sector. They may be heritage sector specialists, or work within much larger activities such as construction, agriculture, planning and tourism. This remarkable diversity offers both a massive strength and significant challenges of integration. There is scope for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the sector as a whole to make the best use of the resources available and maximise the benefit to society.
Research will have impact if it improves processes, management, delivery and articulation of historic environment work both within the heritage sector and as part of related sectors. It will support decision-making, increase cost-effectiveness, maximise research value and enhance public benefit. We will see a more effective, cohesive and robust sector.