Supporting New Professionals: The ICA New Professionals Program

Thanks for talking to us today! Can you start by telling us about the International Council on Archives (ICA)?

Nicholas: The ICA is the international professional association of archivists and archivists. It provides support to the international community through training, networking, funding and learning opportunities.

What is your program for new professionals and how does it work to build capacity within the archival profession?

Nicholas: The New Professionals program is designed to support future leaders in the recordkeeping and archives profession. It brings together six students/new professionals from around the world to work together for a year, learning skills in teamwork, leadership, communication, presentation and project management. It also provides networking opportunities and supports participants through a mentorship program. It is through our future leaders, who represent different regions, language groups, cultures and communities, that we disseminate knowledge and build the capacity of the archival profession.

What work and experience do participants gain? Does digital technology, practices or engagement play a role in this work?

Nicholas: Selected individuals have the opportunity to attend and present at an ICA conference or congress, present an International Archives Week webinar, manage social media accounts and newsletter of the New Professionals Program and to develop a project whose results support the international community of new professionals. Each year’s cohort works with the ICA team and their mentors to come up with a feasible project that is current and relevant to them, with digital technology and working practices often a priority.

Elizabeth: For example, in 2021, the New Professionals cohort focused on a group project on how digitization strategies can foster social inclusion and facilitate memory and respect. We conducted a survey on this topic, which served as the starting point for a roundtable at the ICA conference.

francesca: We also had the opportunity to engage with the broader ICA network by conducting the survey and meeting key ICA figures.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the cultural heritage sector?

Nicholas: My advice is to participate in the community. People are always friendly and eager to share their knowledge, but you also have to give something to get the maximum benefit. Don’t be afraid to step in and try, everyone is really supportive.

Elizabeth: There are many opportunities to learn. The pandemic has reinforced the trend towards virtual workshops and conferences (see the Europeana events page). It can be attended from anywhere, often even for free. Take advantage of these offers and always stay curious about topics you’ve never heard of before!

francesca: Since the beginning of my career in archives, I have found this profession incredibly favorable. There are many learning opportunities and community members are always willing to share what to do, but also not what to do. Don’t be afraid to ask. Also value your previous experience, the cultural heritage sector can learn from you in the same way that you can learn from them.

What opportunities can new professionals take advantage of – and what challenges do they face?

Nicholas: There are both opportunities and challenges for new professionals today and they differ globally. From my perspective in Australia, I think the biggest challenge is our job market for new professionals, where many have to accept short-term, part-time contracts to gain employment in the sector. I encourage everyone to make the most of the free resources made available by associations, including webinars, presentations, and journals. If you can spend the money and join an association, be sure to make the most of the benefits it offers, such as applying for mentorship programs, conference scholarships, and possibly playing a role in a committee.

francesca: Similarly, in the UK there are many free seminars, conferences and resources that you can take advantage of. With the pandemic, these are increasingly accessible online. A big challenge can be gaining the qualifications needed to work in the sector, there are very few scholarships available and often new professionals have to work while following their qualifications over a few years or have to take a gap year to complete a degree postgraduate.

What advice would you give to a cultural heritage institution or organization that would like to involve and support students and new professionals in their work?

Nicholas: Provide mentorship opportunities, support student internships, and host events where students and new professionals can meet your staff and learn from their expertise.

Elizabeth: Provide opportunities to write a thesis in collaboration with their own organization or to work with groups of university students to develop ideas or even practical solutions for their organizations.

francesca: Work with new professionals on projects and give them opportunities within your organization to learn new skills.

Do you have any plans for the European Year of Youth?

Nicholas: The program hopes to connect with the European Year of Youth to reach new audiences, as our current cohort explores who the new archives and recordkeeping professional community is, and how they could feel more supported.

How can a student or new professional get involved in ICA?

Nicholas: Nicola: Students and new professionals are encouraged to follow our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sign up for the New Professionals newsletter and consider contributing to it, the ICA blog, or even writing an article for our next conference. You can become a student member or a digital member and join your regional branch or view ICA sections. The CIA has a lot to give, and you have a lot to offer.

francesca: As a new professional, I know we would have appreciated questions or other new professionals asking us how to get involved. I would say reaching out to start a conversation.

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