Exploring the future of work-based learning and cultural heritage
Guest post by Laura Lewis-Davies, Museum Education Consultant and Assessor/Internal Verifier for Cultural Heritage qualifications
There are a number of fantastic traineeships out there for the cultural heritage sector at the moment. These funded* Work-Based Learning (WBL) placements provide the future cultural heritage workforce with access to real CV-worthy experience at high-profile organisations; the opportunity to develop their skills, undertake a vocational cultural heritage qualification to build a portfolio of work; and, most importantly, the opportunity to network with peers and professionals to join the conversation about the future of the sector.
And in return, these trainees provide cultural heritage organisations with diverse viewpoints on existing projects; proposals for, and insights into, engagement with diverse audiences, and ultimately, a year of hard work and dedication.
But what happens when the traineeship is over?
Talented, and now experienced, early career professionals have no guarantee of onward employment. Many of the trainees I’ve assessed, and their supervisors, would love to continue the traineeship into employment, but there is no funding available and consequently there are no job roles.
This begs the question, what next for trainees? And what next for traineeships? How can these valuable one-year experiences lead to sustainable employment? How can we bridge the gap between a traineeship and a fully-fledged career? And, actually, can we, let alone how can we?
Funding is short term, and outcomes are measured and pre-determined. Like many museum learning and community engagement projects, repeat engagement and sustainable relationships are a much more complex outcome to achieve than one-off engagement with multiple audiences.
Work-based learning (WBL) opportunities shouldn’t end with a permanent or fixed-term contract, after the initial one-off engagement of a traineeship. At leadership level, cultural heritage professionals have access to, or the opportunity to apply for, WBL experiences and to benefit from structured peer support and network building.
There is an opportunity here for something in between traineeships and leadership programmes; an intermediate programme that could develop workforce resilience and provide another stepping stone on the path to a sustainable career.
So, what could this future intermediate programme look like…?
*sometimes fully, sometimes partially