e d i t o r i a
The job market… where is it going?
The field of conservation‐restoration has been changing considerably in front of our eyes during thelast few years. Fuelled by the so called ‘crisis’, our profession has been no oasis for the social‐economic changes that are taking place. Its strongest impact is on the job market, and can be seenclearly in its deregulation and chaotic existence. The job market is the core of the problem, startingwith the free workforce for internships and ending with the low career prospects for seniorprofessionals. This system was already established long before the emergence of these difficult times. However, the crisis has increased the problem to levels never seen before to such an extent that cultural heritage is in peril.Of course, the direct reason is the lack of money flow, which is felt deeply by everyone, from largepublic institutions to small conservation businesses. A direct consequence of this is that professionals, especially recent graduates in conservation, are seeking jobs in other areas, eitherbecause after five long years of study they can’t find a position in their area of specialisation, orsimply because other jobs are better paid.The problems occur when, after having graduated from a degree in conservation, the possibility of finding a job is virtually inexistent so instead, graduates often seek a suitable internship, which will hopefully open doors in the job market. This is more often than not an unpaid internship, as thepaid internships are difficult to encounter. It is possible to choose to work for a company but international or renowned institutions are much better for the curriculum vitae. These are usuallyrun for educational purposes, and are non‐profit making institutions, thus it’s only natural that forthem, internships are seen as a type of volunteer work. However, in such places interns just replaceother interns, only few of them being actually integrated into the staff. So one moves on to anotherinternship or a ‘temporary’ job.Experienced conservators are no better off. As I have noticed, having experience is not necessarily aplus on the job market. More and more, older conservators in apparently permanent positions haveto be let go, and replaced by interns or (underpaid) early career professionals. This of course allowsinstitutions to meet their budgets but it also denotes a tremendous disrespect for the highlyexperienced professional, not as an individual but as a whole. It also means that cultural heritageitself is being cared for in a greater extent by less experienced hands. A direct consequence of this isthat these older professionals must return to the job market but for them this is much more difficult to achieve as age becomes a factor versus experience in a society where youth is perpetually aprized quality.
This system goes far beyond conservation and it’s very hard to break without a common strategy fromregulators, universities and employers. The true quality of life is nowadays becoming lower and lowe
rand we are loosing rights that had once been battled for. It is a serious problem with consequences Icannot foresee but I know they will be a decisive factor for the future of the profession.Sooner or later something has to give. Why should it be conservation?