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Unlike some other parts of the archaeology industry, you don't need a university degree to be an archaeological excavator. As about 85% of excavation is development related, it really should be organised by the Construction Industry Training Board via the levy system.

Universities, who often teach excavation, tend not to be good at post excavation work. They can get students to dig but marking masses of pottery and drawing it is less likely to attract customers. As universities like to have long running projects on unthreatened sites, they are damaging archaeology which could have been best left alone. The country is littered with unpublished university excavations, one at least of which the National Lottery has been asked to help sort out, albeit camouflaged as a community archaeology project.



                   University excavation                           Commercial excavation

It may be more realistic if universities allocated their students to commercial excavation organisations for the summers, so they could see that the reality is often isolated people following machines, rather than the social experience with other students of a typical university dig. Mainly it is clearing machine trenches so others can claim that whatever you found is not significant enough to impede the proposed development. Fluency in English, fitness and ability to work in bad weather and having the Archaeology Skills Passport, as advocated by the British Archaeological Jobs Resource, may be important. Archaeological contractors may provide the training for their staff to gain the Skills Passport.  

The CIfA and various professional bodies have lobbied (2019) to keep wage rates for people coming to the UK below those which the government considers necessary for people not to be reliant on benefits. Archaeological contractors undercut each other which helps developers and landowners make more money. This has resulted in some contractors using people (sometimes 70%) from other countries - which keeps wage rates down and deters UK citizens from entering the industry. Your gap year job could be another persons career.

The government prefers employers to import staff, even if the staff then claim benefits, housing, education etc, rather than take responsibility for making sure that the UK workforce is adequately trained and can earn enough to live on. They may claim to be changing their tune but are faced by the employers lobby which has grown used to the benefits system supporting their low wages. Employers may find that staff who have no knowledge of the area where they are excavating or loyalty to that area are more willing to participate in the destruction of remains than locally based personnel.

 It gives a different insight into the presence of Germanic belt fittings in late Roman contexts.