New career routes: the Foundation Membership pathway

We catch up with Rory Powell FMARA, Customer Service Officer with Sandwell Community History and Archive Service, who recently qualified as a Foundation Member of the ARA.

Please give a brief overview of your current role

I work within a small team as a Customer Service Assistant/Archives Assistant at Sandwell Community History and Archives Service. The service accommodates researchers, historians and the generally interested public from all over the world. We receive enquiries relating to all aspects of the history of Sandwell, through online enquiries and visitors.

We also offer and manage a reprographics service and a research service. Our collections include Council Administration Records covering the various Town/Borough Councils that now make up Sandwell, local businesses records including Chance Brothers LTD, Patent Shaft Steel Works LTD and we also hold various private collections including the Family Papers for the Chance family.

The service is also responsible for the records management of a variety of public records and is the appointed repository for Warley Deanery.

What attracted you to Foundation Membership?

In a time of sweeping cuts to budgets within Local Authorities, training has not been made available and indeed there were no funds to support my undertaking of Foundation Membership. My lack of academic qualification made it difficult for me to access industry recognised training and learning opportunities. As a competency based evaluation process, the Personal Development Programme suited my needs and enabled me to feel recognised for the work experience I have gained in the sector.

What do you think are the benefits of having qualified as a Foundation Member?

By completing the Foundation Membership under my own volition, I have shown my employer that I have a keen interest in progressing my career and in developing my knowledge base further. The ARA’s competency framework is wide in its scope, and this enabled me to look at a range of skills and critically analyse them within the context of the archival environment. The process has also taught me the importance of reflection and how it can be used to enforce my work ethic and ensure I am following correct procedures.

As a result of my Foundation Membership, my employer has agreed to fund my Master’s Degree in Archival Administration through Long Distance Learning at Aberystwyth University.

What advice would you offer to those thinking of enrolling onto the Foundation Membership programme?

The support and advice available from the mentoring aspect of the programme was invaluable. It helped me understand my roles and responsibilities in a wider professional context; showing how they relate to important aspects within the archive profession. The clear guidance offered through the resource material, and the support offered by my mentor, put my initial anxieties to rest and helped me remain focussed on developing my application to the required standard.

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