Bristol Culture

“We’ve now been able to run two work experience programs, where six young people from school who wouldn’t normally necessarily come into the museum, have been able to take part in a structured program of a week’s work experience with different activities.”

“What can we get them to do that isn’t super dull and just photocopying all the time?” Jackie Winchester – Senior Officer, Participation

Jackie says work experience was the elephant in the room: “I think for a couple of years before I took on this role we had been saying openly no we don’t offer work experience at all. So that would have been the message that we were giving out. Because it was just too difficult and complicated.

“I think without RIO’s support, without bringing us together, that would have been more difficult to happen. Knowing that we had other people to call on made me feel more confident about taking that step. That definitely made a difference.”

Jackie says the project has completely changed the way they do work experience: “We’ve now been able to run two work experience programs, where six young people from school who wouldn’t normally necessarily come into the museum, have been able to take part in a structured program of a week’s work experience with different activities.

“This year we wanted particularly to work with Merchants Academy in Withywood. They are often a school who have the lowest GCSE results across the city. I paired them with Cotham School who are in a slightly more affluent area of Bristol. I did contact the work experience coordinator and said that I would particularly like her to try and target young people who were from black and ethnic minority groups or young people who are disabled.”

This year the work experience was structured around the Year Ten students spending time on the gallery floor and in the shop. Working in pairs from different schools the pupils also worked closely with the museum’s digital team and learned about the other roles across the organisation. They also joined in a training session with new visitor assistants, to enable them to interact with visitors.

“That worked well because the young people from Cotham were a little bit more confident, little bit more into asking questions and things like that. So I think that was quite nice because it seemed to have a knock-on effect with the young people from Merchants Academy.”

Jackie says the were set a task to research an object they were drawn to, and give a presentation about it at the end of the week: “That was the first time for several people that they had stood up in front of a group of people and done that sort of thing. Giving them greater confidence in speaking skills.

“I counted there were nearly 20 members of staff who worked directly with those young people over the week. So those members of staff were all getting exposure to working with young people, increasing their skills and confidence.”

As well as finding out about jobs available in the cultural sector, they were also told about other apprenticeships available across the city council.

The museum will be doing it again in July 2019 and Jackie hopes more will join in: “You’ll forge better links with schools, better relationships with young people. Hopefully you’re going to sow some seeds that will result in some changes in the workforce over time.

“You’re going to grow the skills of your workforce, as well as increase people’s confidence, which will have an impact not just in terms of future work experience that you run, any sort of engagement that you do with young people. So it can only be a good thing. Brilliant.”