Saturday, January 13, 2007

The strange case of Andrew Allerton

The executive committee of SQA met earlier this week to consider its response to the publicity surrounding the 1000 failed attempts of mechanical engineer Andrew Allerton of North Shields to obtain work.

Andrew Allerton

Mr. Allerton, aged 56, was made redundant from Electrak in Consett, County Durham in 2002. Since then he has spent £5000 on applying for jobs as an administrative assistant, bereavement counsellor, chauffer, draughtsman and, you guessed it, archivist.

The hapless job hunter has highly respectable qualifications in the form of an Open University degree in Mathematics and Technology, an HND in computer-aided engineering and a City and Guilds teaching certificate. However, press reports make no mention of his holding the postgraduate diploma in archive administration.

We asked SQA’s principal spokesman, Benedict Crumplethorne, to comment on this case.

Well, actually much depends on whether Mr. Allerton applied for a post requiring candidates to hold the professional qualification. Many employers, e.g. the Church of England National Institutions (see our earlier blog Job watch), appoint non-professionally qualified persons to archivist posts while the general public along with many employers and academics are unaware of the existence of a profession of qualified archivists. Could a qualified archivist be appointed as a mechanical engineer?

I am not clear as to whether Mr. Allerton applied for a post requiring the post holder to be a qualified archivist or whether we are dealing with a situation in which the term is wholly misapplied. If the former, we can understand why he was rejected as being professionally unqualified, if the latter he would have been up against large numbers of equally unqualified applicants.

The moral is that to apply for an archivist post and stand a reasonable chance of being short-listed, it is best to obtain the postgraduate archives qualification first. We must also ask whether Mr. Allerton undertook any voluntary work in a record office before applying for a position as an archivist. Conceivably, this might lead to a successful application subject to his giving an undertaking to enrol on the University of Wales distance-learning course.

This notwithstanding, it is a disgrace that unsuccessful candidates for public sector jobs do not receive a letter. I understand the case for economies but in principle Mr. Allerton has a point and rightly feels unvalued. I am reminded of the case of the unsuccessful candidate out of the two candidates for the post of county archivist of Cornwall in succession to Christine North several years ago. He didn’t receive a letter of rejection either. Silly fool, he should have known! (see also Tips for Employers)

I conclude my remarks by asking Mr. Allerton to email us with information concerning the post he applied for. We may be able to offer him further helpful advice.

The final word has to go to our outspoken member Ellison Millinocket, who is not to be outdone when it comes to controversy.

Benedict recommends voluntary work as a route into the profession. I couldn't agree more. May I suggest Mr. Allerton offers his services to Tyne and Wear Archives? He can assist them in finding Sunderland City Council's lost charter! (See our earlier blog Historic Charter Goes Missing)

Further reading


This is London

Newcastle Evening Chronicle

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mirror

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