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Icon welcomes individuals and organisations from all backgrounds who identify with the conservation and preservation of our cultural heritage.  Our membership embraces the entire conservation community as well as members of the public who are keen to learn more or show their support for conservation work.


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Icon's HLF Training Bursaries Scheme - Key Facts, Questions & Answers

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) granted Icon £1,490,000 in 2005 and 2009 towards a scheme of 74 paid work- based training placements in conservation. This is one of 10 such training schemes supported by HLF across the wider heritage sector for 6 years from 2006 to 2012.

In June 2102 Icon was successful in gaining HLF funding for 36 additional placements. Eight started in October 2012 and further placement opportunties ran from April and October 2013 and then finally April 2014. These later placements are still in progress. 

The following FAQ's explain the objectives and mechanisms of the scheme; Icon's Externally Funded Placements (EFP's) are run on the same basis.  Adverts for new placements appear on the adverts page. 

Q. Who is eligible to apply, and how is the successful candidate chosen?

1. At least half of the scheme's placements are "new entry" - open to applicants without conservation training. The rest are for conservation course graduates immediately or recently post-qualification.

2. Anyone may apply for the "new entry" placements, there are no qualification requirements except for demonstrable handskills/practical abilities and an enthusiasm for and interest in conservation.

3. There are no age limits for applicants. For example, current interns range in age from 21 to 51.

4. The “new entry” placements are mainly targeted at applicants willing to change to a new career and committed to a career in conservation. These internships are not suitable for candidates in employment who intend to return to non-conservation jobs.

5. The main advert for Interns appears in the May edition of Icon News and more widely, including a special campaign to recruit those from ethnic minorities.

6. Placement supervisors and Icon staff are involved in choosing successful candidates. It is our priority to get a "good match" for the host organisation and for the supervisor involved. 

7. Supervisors and Icon always seek to appoint the person who is likely to make the most use of the opportunity - not necessarily  the "best person for the job" in conventional employment recruitment terms.  

Q. What are the issues that Icon's scheme is addressing?

1. The shortage of skilled conservators to carry out work on major projects, particularly in those disciplines where training courses don't exist

2. Lack of people with skills in preventive conservation and environment work

3. A lack of diversity in the conservation profession, both in terms of ethnic minorities in the field and the socio-economic groups represented. We acknowledge that it is expensive to train in conservation, it takes a long time and is a relatively low-return profession financially. These factors are responsible for a predominantly middle-class white work force.

4. Conservation graduates today find it difficult to bridge the gap between training and work and often lack confidence in the extent of their practical skills relative to employers or clients’ needs.

Q. Who's involved?

1. The scheme is run by Icon from its office in London. It was run for the first 6 years from Icon's Edinburgh Training Office.

2. Icon's funding partners in the scheme have been : English Heritage, The Pilgrim Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Project development partners were MLA, Cultural and Creative Skills Sector Skills Council, Cymal, the National Trust

3. Intern placements are UK-wide, and Icon has an ongoing list of placement offers from over 50 workshops and institutions in the public and private sectors at any one time.

Q. How does the scheme work?

1. The scheme consists of 10-15 placements of Interns per year, of 12 and 24 month duration – for six years –making 74 placements in all. Others are added as funds are raised from other sources.

2. Intern placements are in both public and private sector workshops, with experienced conservation professionals. Each Intern has a dedicated  supervisor who is accredited or working towards that status.

3. Wherever possible, Interns are placed in projects or workshops where there is HLF grant-aided work.

4. Interns are paid an educational bursary of around £15,000 that is not currently subject to tax. They are paid quarterly, once in advance, then the rest in retrospect, on receipt and approval of a report from themselves and their supervisors

Q. How are host organisations chosen?

1. A desk study is carried out annually to determine conservation needs across the wider heritage field and the balance of disciplines selected on that basis. Criteria for choosing the placement hosts venues are:

2. The host can offer work in the targeted discipline area - allowing for balanced spread of all disciplines across the UK

3. The placement does not take the place of an existing contract or post

4. Work available at the venue is appropriate to the level of the Intern

5. A dedicated supervisor is willing and available – they should have ACR status (or be working towards this) and supervision experience. They should be individuals keen to take advantage of an excellent personal development opportunity which will help them move towards accreditation and/or take forward their CPD.

6. The placement ensures a UK-wide spread of placements

7. The placement fits the pattern of a public sector/private sector balance

8. The placement fits the pattern of non-conservation background/conservation graduate types of placement balance 50:50

9. Priority is given to a host or site where other HLF-funded work available

Q: How are Interns managed and monitored?

1. The scheme is managed from Icon, and via  3  Intern Advisers based in the regions, acting as on-the-ground mentors for interns, supervisors and hosts.

2. There are quarterly visits from the Intern Advisers to intern and supervisor, and as required in between

3. Interns will use the specially-developed “Activity Monitor” to self-monitor and assess their needs and progression conjunction with their supervisor and Adviser.

4.Interns and ex-interns are brought together via a virtual link-up to ensure support and communication.

5. A high-profile “Intern Show/Exhibtiion” is held each September or December to publicise the results of interns work and help them make contacts with potential employers and trainers

Q. What kind of work do Interns do?

1. Work is geared to the level of the intern, who is monitored against a conservation career route-map based on the PACR standards: see

2. Even if they are a completely novice entrant, the intern is made aware of how far he or she has progressed and is encouraged and supported to continue training.

3. Work is to a great extent based on what comes into that workshop or what is available on site – this provides good experience of real-life situations.

4. The Activity Monitor demands a wider scope of work and experience wherever possible, and hosts are encouraged to make sure the intern has as rewarding and career-relevant an experience as possible.

5. Links are made across regions. Where training or experience is needed but can't be found locally, interns are often routed to other sites or workshops to gain this.

6. Interns are also encouraged to attend training courses in generic skills such as report writing and project management.

Q. How does the scheme benefit the conservation profession?

1. Conservators benefit from the publicity and status generated by this high-profile UK scheme backed by HLF.

2. The scheme opens up opportunities in particular to those with important relevant skills and experience like technicians and framers, who are already in conservation-related work, but at a lower level.

3. The scheme provides placements and an entry route for skilled craftspeople and those with other heritage skills who are interested in “converting” to conservation.

4. Internships are rare and often unfunded, the scheme will provide a source of funded in-depth practical placements for graduates over the four-year period.

5. The HLF monies have allowed Icon to establish a a work-based training Framework – Skills in Practice - with standard assessment procedures, methodology and a network of co-ordinators. This has been utilised by other employers and funders across the UK to offer new externally-funded internships under the Icon banner..

© 2015 Icon - The Institute of Conservation. Icon is registered as a Charity in England and Wales (Number 1108380) and in Scotland (Number SC039336) and is a Company Limited by Guarantee, (Number 5201058)
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