Changing the way in which we recruit

Pauline Tambling, Issue 114/07, p13, 01.07.2014
Investment in young talent is vital for the survival of the cultural heritage sector. Yet with budgets facing erosion, swathes of the sector are struggling to recruit and train new members of the workforce. As a result, many organisations are turning to unpaid staff to plug the gap.

In fact, 51% of people in the sector expect the number of unpaid staff to rise over the next five years, according to our recent Historic Environment and Cultural Heritage Skills Survey. A further 38% expect it to stay the same.

There are many reasons why this should concern us. Unpaid work is a significant barrier to entry for many people, militating against widening participation. It also puts the cultural economy at risk, which is especially bad at a time of such high youth unemployment and underemployment.

Without diverse young talent breaking through, we are holding back the cultural industry from fulfilling its potential to be among the world’s best.

The good news is that there is financial help available. Museums, galleries, libraries and other cultural employers within Arts Council England’s footprint are eligible to bid for funds from our Creative Employment Programme (CEP).

The CEP is a £15m lottery-fuanded programme tasked with creating 6,500 new apprenticeships, paid internships and traineeships for young unemployed people between March 2013 and March 2015.

Just past the halfway point of the programme, 140 opportunities have been created in cultural heritage (museums, libraries and galleries), which represents only 9% of organisations within the footprint. So nine out of 10 cultural heritage organisations in England have yet to engage with the CEP to increase opportunities for young people within their workforce, and widen diversity and talent.

Last month, London’s mayor publicly backed the programme, saying: “The Creative Employment Programme is not only boosting the industry, it is contributing to my target to create 250,000 new apprenticeships in the capital and get young people into work.”

Eligible organisations wishing to take on apprentices through the CEP in London can also apply for matched funding through the National Apprenticeship Service and the City Bridge Trust. By accessing this funding alongside the CEP, employers can address skills gaps in the sector, encourage innovation and collaboration, and cut youth employment in a cost-effective way.

Sustainable employment for the next generation of talent is crucial. At our conference in March, 62% of delegates said it should be the sector’s main focus.

It is time to allow a new generation to gain fair access to careers in cultural heritage.

Pauline Tambling is the joint chief executive and managing director of Creative and Cultural Skills


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MA Member
24.07.2014, 11:21
I feel the higher education providers should be more realistic about job prospects with the students. I've worked with several university placements from different MA courses and none of them (as far as I am aware) were told about the dwindling jobs market prior to signing up or even throughout the course. It's wonderful we have so many talented people entering the sector via MA courses but this positive is diminished by the few that can actually succeed simply because there are not enough jobs.
I appreciate we need to encourage diversity, but we are going to be left with a museum sector made up of postgraduates who have enough financial backing to work for free/very little until a permanent post comes along- not at all diverse. Adding more training opportunities will just cause more people to join the job competition rather than diversify the sector.
24.07.2014, 10:48
A degree is not the be all and end all of my previous career in accounting, I lost count of the number of times someone was employed as a manager, and had come straight from University with a degree, thinking they could run before they could walk.
When I was made redundant, and had to sign on at the Job Centre, it was entirely through being put on a placement at ESAMP (look it up on the internet !) in Lewes, East Sussex, that enabled me to forge a path into a career that I have always wanted to do, rather than just "fallen into" along the way.Experience through sheer hard work and single mindedness has propelled me through to where I am today in the museums world, and I do not have a degree. I do think that young people should be given a chance....a place at the University of Life is often better than someone fresh faced straight from University, who has an expectation of walking straight into a job.
People from different backgrounds with different life experiences have every right to be given a chance....what right do people with degrees have to say otherwise ?
MA Member
17.07.2014, 11:31
I absolutely agree with the comments here. Since getting a 1st class honours degree and an MA from the Courtauld, I have had nothing but short temporary contracts and unpaid positions since I graduated four years ago. My latest paid contract was as an Education Assistant but I was unceremoniously dropped when they decided to use volunteers instead: YTS trainees that I helped to train, by the way. I despair!
16.07.2014, 19:54
What nonsense this news article is! We can all read the context in which it is written - articles which have headlines about devastating cuts in Museum funding, a drop in school visits and compulsory redundancies at ACE. The job market is awash with highly trained and motivated young graduates who have built up huge debts in order to study for 3 or 4 years and who are all chasing the same few jobs which are probably short-term contracts or part-time anyway. Why on earth do we need a new raft of inexperienced and untrained youngsters to join the ranks of the already un/under employed? What planet do these highly paid commentators live on?
Francesca Schiavoni
Steward of Events and Conferencing, British Museum
16.07.2014, 18:54
I am completely agree with comments below. Competition is very high out there, recruiters want very good experience to bring to them. After 3 years volunteering, MA and a zero contract hours where I'm supposed to go in the big cultural ocean? Be honest I don't know. Probably like Emma Philips, the idea to change sector is sad but is the reality of the situation.
Chris Wood
MA Member
10.07.2014, 20:10
This is totally the wrong focus. What's needed is real, sustainable funding for real, long-term jobs, not short-term traineeships aimed at getting people off the dole for a year. All you're doing otherwise is increasing the competition for museum jobs that aren't there. And why the obsession with youth unemployment (about to be cut anyway with compulsory schooling until 18)? Museums need well-trained and experienced people and can't afford to be a neo-YTS. There are plenty of excellent people struggling to find museum jobs after years of volunteering and taking on whatever is on offer, whether young or, indeed, trying to move into museums mid-career (bringing tremendous experience with them too). To such people, this is a slap in the face.
Kerri Wilson
MA Member
Custodian, Ely Museum
10.07.2014, 10:02
I concur whole heartedly with these comments. Despite great passion and holding down an entry level position for 7 years in a small local museum, all while gaining a mass of experience, resourcing (without a budget) and running a successful youth programme, i still can not get past a basic paid custodian level. I am about to finish my MA in Learning and Visitor Studies in museums and art galleries, but comments below make me fear for my future. I have funded myself to get my MA and soon will have to start paying back my Careers Development Loan with little hope of actual career advancement or pay increase to pay off the debt. The sector can only gain funding to aid 'unemployed' young people... but what about the young(ish) people who have a passion, have held down two jobs, paid their taxes, working 7 days a week AND volunteered when they can to fight tooth and nail to stay in the cultural sector??? Where are the open doors for them? I am not saying unemployed young people are not deserving of these opportunities but there has to be a balance, especially when locally i know of two CEP placements that have ended in the young person failing to turn up to work. A balance can easily be reached i feel.
10.07.2014, 09:01
I agree with Emma Phillips - why is funding being directed towards young unemployed people, when people who already have training, qualifications and experience can't get jobs in the sector? Surely young people like Emma and I (I have a first-class MA in Museum Studies and a year's volunteering experience) are the 'untapped potential' which is being lost from the sector?
08.07.2014, 12:20
The CEP is all very well, but where do the interns, trainees and apprentices go after that? I finished my internship (English Heritage curatorial intern) last September, and haven't even made it to interview for any jobs yet, despite applications which I've lost count of. Graduates are taking the entry-level positions and post-graduates and professionals are taking the graduate ones. In my experience, what seems to be letting me down is lack of a PhD (I do have an MA) or several years active practice under my belt.

At the moment I'm being forced to consider leaving the sector altogether, despite having some excellent (and presumably costly) training under my belt. Unless there is serious effort made to increase funding and the jobs economy higher up the chain, then all these new trainees are, like me, going to find themselves at a dead-end.
28.07.2014, 21:36
I very much agree with what everyone is saying here about not being able to make the step up from that entry level position. I am very much in the same boat. Almost all of the jobs in the market are fixed term contracts as well. Where is the long term sustainability in this? Surely properly financed museums with permanent staff doing the right jobs and building up the expertise is the way forward. It must also be much more efficient than trying to rely on uncertain and by it's nature, inefficient funding grants. But the elephant in the room is as ever-where does the money come from?