Websites, social media, images and sound – these are such an important part of modern life. We need people with technical skills to help us understand and preserve the digital record.
Geoff Browell, King’s College London
Since 2018, the Bridging the Digital Gap programme has created 24 paid, technical traineeships to bring much-needed digital skills and different backgrounds into the archives sector. Trainees are employed by The National Archives and seconded to a host institution for their 15-month, workplace-based placement.
Two cohorts, each made up of eight trainees, have worked at archives in Yorkshire, Norfolk, and London. In 2021, the third and final cohort will start at archives in London and the South West. The host institutions are grouped into a consortium of four institutions, with two consortia chosen per round.
While at their host archive, trainees receive on-the-job training in standard archive practices and digital-specific areas. They work on real-life projects and carry out meaningful digital archival tasks to high standards. Trainees regularly meet up and share learning, either in person or online.
In addition, The National Archives provide a series of training opportunities. Day-long workshops are an introduction to e-learning courses, which cover archive management, digital capture, digital preservation, digital access and engagement, and more. During the placement, The National Archives and the host archives offer additional seminars with expert speakers.
Each trainee also has a personal budget to spend on workshops, courses, and conferences of their choice. They can also take advantage of member-only benefits from organisations to which The National Archives belongs, such as the Digital Preservation Coalition and the Open Preservation Foundation.
In conjunction with programme partner, the Archives and Records Association (ARA), trainees receive individual membership of ARA and work toward Foundation Membership of ARA during their placement. Foundation Membership is a professional qualification and confirms trainees have demonstrated the stated level of competence in their chosen six areas. Trainees build a portfolio of placement-based evidence to draw on for their application.
During their placement, trainees develop key skills that prepare them for careers in the heritage sector, enabling them to apply for digital archives assistant or similar posts upon completion. Trainees from the first cohort are now employed in digital roles at the British Library, Cambridge University Library, and British Film Institute.
To find out more about the projects trainees have worked on, go to ‘why work in an archive?’