Creating a sustainable environment for conservation education and skills development
The UK offers a broad range of conservation education opportunities. People can enter the workforce through many different routes which recognise that individuals come from a range of educational backgrounds, may be at various stages in their career and have preferred ways of learning.
There are currently 29 vocational and academic courses listed in Icon's training directory. However, over the last 10 years several leading conservation programmes have closed across the UK, including the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton in (2011), the furniture conservation programme at Bucks New University (2014) and the paper conservation programmes at UAL: Camberwell (2019).
Conservation also shares many of the same challenges as other parts of the education system, such as pressures on student recruitment, a drive for profitability of programmes, and a reliance on the recruitment of full fee-paying international students.
These issues have raised concerns about the future of conservation training and the resilience of the workforce, making education and skills an advocacy priority for Icon.
Icon’s advocacy for conservation education forms part of its wider work around advocating for the conservation profession. This involves monitoring Government plans for education policy and influencing decisionmakers through meetings, briefings and consultation responses. Find out more about policy.
Our advocacy is underpinned by robust research. Icon’s Labour Market Intelligence projects seek to gain a comprehensive understanding of the conservation sector’s composition and current challenges and opportunities facing the labour market, including issues like skills, qualifications and routes into employment. Through our LMI we’re helping to develop a skilled workforce with the right mix of skills in response to labour market needs, in a way that promotes job quality and lifelong learning. Find out more about LMI.
In recent years, we’ve also enjoyed having a seat at one of the most important tables in education policy. Since 2015, Icon has supported employers in the conservation sector to develop standards for Trailblazer Apprenticeships. Our central role has enabled us to embed Icon’s Professional Standards at the heart of new training and support new entrants into the profession. We’re delighted to have been approved as an End Point Assessment Organisation to help deliver the new apprenticeships for the sector. Find out more about Apprenticeships.
We’re hardly working on this vital campaign in isolation. In 2019, Icon formed the Conservation Higher Education Institutions Network (CHEIN) to bring together conservation educators, conservation students, professional conservators and colleagues from related disciplines. The CHEIN provides a platform for discussion and sharing of ideas on conservation education and ensures that education is kept in sync with the developments of the profession in different contexts. Find out more about the network.