The results show that the sector is growing in size and confidence; in financial year 2014-15, commercial archaeology was in a period of rapid recovery and expansion following years of decline or stagnation. The number of people working in the sector grew rapidly and businesses were very confident. Levels of turnover and profits increased.
The full report can be downloaded here- Archaeological Market Survey 2015
- It is estimated that the applied archaeology sectoral workforce grew by 20.8% in financial year 2014-15.
- Over a comparable period, the number of archaeological staff providing expert advice to local planning authorities increased by 4.5%.
- Together, these changes combine to result in the net number of people working in professional archaeology in the UK growing by 12.9% in financial year 2014-15 to an estimated total of 5,452 individuals.
- The average (mean) UK turnover for an applied archaeology company in 2014-15 was £1.9m, an increase of 15% over the year since March 2014, with an additional 3% above that being generated from non-UK work.
- In total, it is estimated that UK commercial archaeology generated a total of £167m revenue in 2014-15.
- Many of the largest employers are constituted as not-for-profit organisations.
- Profit (or ‘surplus’) levels remained low – an average of 2.5% – but had improved slightly since 2014, when the figure was 1.9%.
- The overwhelming majority of income (75%, an increase from 67% in 2013-14) came from private sector clients.
- The most important market sector was residential development, followed by commercial and industrial development.
- The sector in 2015 was more confident than it had been at any time since 2008 (the start of this data collection exercise). The high levels of confidence reported in 2014 had been maintained and positive sentiment increased.
- The sector had its best ever recorded expectations of maintaining or increasing staffing levels, its best ever feelings about market conditions, there were high levels of planned expansion and for the first time more respondents expected no business failures in the next year than expected some to happen.
Skills, training and qualifications
- Fieldwork skills continued to be those most commonly reported as being lost.
- Artefact and ecofact conservation was no longer reported as a skill being lost by employers, nor was it identified as being a priority for in-house training, because it had become very much the norm for this to be provided by subcontractors.
- The areas where training was focussed continued to match reasonably closely to the areas where skills were being reported as being lost (as they had been in 2014) – so these skills gaps (skills that existing staff needed but lacked) were being tackled by investment in training.
- Respondents considered that the economic climate for development would improve in the next year (2015-16), and were even more confident of improvement than they had been a year previously.
- Typically, they thought their heritage teams would grow, and they were even more confident that their teams would not contract in size.
- Respondents considered that late payment of bills was an increasingly significant problem for their business, although the sector as a whole did not present a strong view on whether non-payment had been a significant problem.
- Respondents tended to agree with, but were unsure about, the assertion that “current national planning policy frameworks are making it easier to justify heritage work and revenue levels”; equally, they were unsure, but tended to disagree with the statement that “current national planning policy frameworks weaken the case for heritage work and revenue levels”.
- They agreed that a shortage of heritage staff in local planning authorities was a major constraint on heritage projects (which could affect income generation), and this was felt even more strongly than it had been in 2014.
- Response levels were good – a marked improvement on 2014. A total of 89 organisations were asked to provide information and a total of 53 useable responses were received, a response rate of 59.6%.
- The factors that had contributed to the low level of response to the 2014 survey had largely been addressed, through respondents becoming more familiar with the questionnaire, the survey being circulated at a better time of the year, and it asking for more recent data and opinions.
- This study will continue to be repeated annually, with the next survey taking place in early summer 2016. It will collect data from the end of the previous financial years on a cyclical basis until 2017-18 when it is intended that this will form part of the quinquennial Profiling the Profession project which gathers comparable data from the entire archaeological profession in the UK.
The overall aims of this survey are to provide:
- a unique analysis of the archaeological sector as part of the overall UK economy;
- statistics that allow estimation of total value of sector to the economy;
- data on indicative numbers of employed professional archaeologists;
- data for analysis of long-term sustainability for the sector;
- an indication of social benefit through outreach;
- data that can enable informed lobbying to help protect the UK’s heritage; and to support planning effectively for the future so that the profession is sustainable and results in a benefit for society