Bristol Cultural Education Partnership: Working together to create opportunity

In Bristol, the RIO Bridge team has been working alongside Bristol Cultural Education Partnership (BCEP) members to create a pilot cultural sector focused work placement model for year 10 aged pupils from across the city.

Overview:

The aim of the pilot is to ensure all young people across Bristol, regardless of background can access high-quality cultural sector work experience opportunities, while exploring how a sector can collaborate to respond more effectively and strategically to work experience requests from young people.

During the latter half of 2016, RIO received multiple queries from individual cultural organisations asking how others were ‘delivering work experience’ and how organisations responded to requests if they didn’t have a current work experience offer. RIO reached out to BCEP members to explore the potential of joining forces to develop a city-wide work experience model that focused on engaging young people with arts and cultural organisations.

The work experience model proposed, rather than offering one pupil a placement on an ad hoc basis, organisations offered real and purposeful learning experiences for cohorts of young people, ultimately meaning greater impact for those individuals. It would also help schools and young people to overcome difficulties when sourcing finding high quality work experience – experiences that genuinely broadens horizons and gets young people excited about work in the real world. The process would ensure that young people from across Bristol could access these opportunities, leaving it less down to chance and to a structured process.

“As sourcing work placements is usually down to the young person themselves, individuals (and their families) may not have access to the network of arts and cultural organisations across Bristol, that would enable them to gain a placement. As a network of cultural educators, we wanted to create a way for young people from across the whole city, to have the same exciting and meaningful work placements opportunities with arts and cultural organisations, addressing some important issues around diversity and inclusion. By working together in such a collaborative way, we have been enabled, quite organically to create a model for work placements that supports schools and more of their pupils to engage in purposeful learning experiences. Opportunities that hold meaningful consequences for those young people, whilst creating value for the host organisation, the cultural sector and the city.” – Deshni Pyndiah, RIO consultant

Creative Partnership:

RIO in collaboration with Bristol Cultural Education Partnership members, Watershed, Travelling Light Theatre, Bristol Plays Music, Bristol Old Vic, Circomedia, Bristol Museums and SS Great Britain, have worked together to understand sector challenges in relation to work experience, while sharing ideas, learning and practical resources. Over the last 12 months, the group has collectively worked to codify this learning, to create a work experience framework – a structure to support other organisations to embed a project based work experience offer in their organisation and deliver it successfully.

BCEP holds a rich wealth of skills, experience and knowledge in cultural education, by joint working, the group has unlocked their collective knowledge to overcome challenges quickly, shared best practice, concrete ideas to create great outcomes for young people. Jackie Winchester, Participation officer at Bristol Culture (Bristol Museums) explains more:

“The benefits of collaboration mean we have been able to share and make use of everyone’s experiences and practical resources, such as relevant school contacts, work experience activity plan templates and school work experience dates. It was also useful to share information about the work experiences process. I don’t think I would have felt as confident about doing our first work experience week without having that support and people I could go to when I had a question.”

The Outcome:

During the first year, the pilot model has seen success. Collectively, the organisations involved have delivered placements to almost 50 pupils from schools across the city, supporting individuals to engage in arts and cultural employment covering digital, history, heritage through to theatre and circus performance. Previously, opportunities would have been offered to less than ten young people and three organisations have been empowered to establish a structured work experience offer within their organisations for the first time.

Young people have developed skills by engaging in real, exciting project based work, talked to sector professionals and been given a true insight into the world of work, learning first hand of the variety of careers that exist within the arts and cultural sector. Young people have importantly helped host organisations shape an offer that meets the needs of young people across the city through feedback and evaluation of their experiences.

Young people have developed skills by engaging in real, exciting project based work, talked to sector professionals and been given a true insight into the world of work, learning first hand of the variety of careers that exist within the arts and cultural sector. Young people have importantly helped host organisations shape an offer that meets the needs of young people across the city through feedback and evaluation of their experiences.

“There are real benefits to those young people in terms of opening their eyes to new roles in the sector that they didn’t know about before and broadening their horizons. By working with a group for a week, it’s a way of having quite a high impact just based on a week’s work. It’s such a worthwhile activity for employers to engage in and it can help to raise the profile of an organisation too, Bristol’s Mayor re-tweeted our young people’s blog during their week with us- which was great for building that young person’s confidence and gives them something great to brag about at school!” Jackie Winchester

The Challenges:

It is quite a challenging time for arts and cultural organisations, dealing with many requests from all directions and having a true desire to help, but at the same time juggling lots of other commitments, often under pressure and with limited resource. BCEP members have successfully demonstrated how; with minimal resource and a shared ethos for creating high quality cultural educational outcomes for young people, collective impact and change can be created.

The group plan to continue to deliver work experience placements in this way and are seeking to engage further arts and cultural organisations from across the city, so more young people can gain the opportunity to engage in cultural sector focused work placements, thus increasing the impact for more individuals.

If you are arts and cultural organisation, interested in providing work experience opportunities for young people and want to know more about this work or Bristol cultural education partnership, please contact RIO Consultant Deshni Pyndiah Deshni.Pyndiah@realideas.org

RIO are leaders in Cultural Education. As the Arts Council Bridge Organisation for the South West of England we work with schools, youth settings and cultural organisations to connect young people with great art and culture. To find out more about our Bridge offer, contact us to talk about how we can support you in delivering excellent cultural education for young people in the region.