Heritage Debate: Mapping the Future of our Sector

Our annual Heritage Debate provides a forum for expert panellists to discuss timely issues and future directions for the UK heritage sector. We aim for the debate to tackle some of the most pressing topics in current sector conversations: from the drive to reach net zero, to diversifying the sector's workforce and programming, to ensuring that heritage career pathways are desirable and sustainable.

The autumn event has adopted a virtual format in recent years, enabling even wider participation and perspectives. Each year, we feature established sector figures alongside new voices to capture fresh perspectives and dialogues.

The discourse from Heritage Debate often fuels our ongoing work at the Alliance, as we dig deeper into key the themes raised by the discussions. The flurry of energy and ideas from the event fuels our ongoing advocacy efforts to drive positive change for and across the sector. Attendees frequently describe Heritage Debate as exciting and engaging: it generates new ideas, fosters cross-sector relationships, and provides key insights for new policies and practices.

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Heritage Debate 2023

Heritage Debate Archive

Heritage Debate 2023 – Careers at a Crossroads: How Can We Future-Proof the Heritage Sector Workforce?

We held our Heritage Debate for 2023 on Wednesday 15th November (11am-1pm, hosted online). The event drew a crowd of 182 participants and stimulated a lively discussion on the key challenges facing careers in heritage today.

Our panel of experts represented different streams of the sector workforce as they explored how careers in heritage can be made viable and rewarding into the future. They discussed challenges surrounding improved pay, diversity and inclusion, the promotion of heritage skills, supporting volunteers, and early career pathways – as well as reflecting on the strengths of the heritage sector and the passion and generosity of its people.

The debate was hosted by the Heritage Alliance’s Acting Chair Dr Ingrid Samuel OBE, and featured five panellists:

The event also featured new research insights from Ecclesiastical Insurance, which revealed some of the top current concerns for heritage organisations: the cost-of-living crisis, volunteer shortages, and staff recruitment and retention. At the end of the debate, audience ultimately voted for ‘pay and conditions’ as their top priority for heritage careers, with 36% of the vote. We hope that the debate sparked thoughtful conversations throughout the sector on tangible ways to strengthen and empower our workforce. Thank you to all attendees, and especially to our corporate partner Ecclesiastical Insurance and our event sponsor Heriot-Watt University for their support in making this debate possible.

In the lead-up to Heritage Debate 2023, our blog sought submissions of Letters of Advice for readers at a crossroad in their careers. You can browse all of the letters on our website, which tackle everything from starting your first apprenticeship to joining a board of trustees.