Skills for Success: From trainee to assessor

Sam Bannerman is the Museum Manager at Dundee Transport Museum. She has been involved with the MGS Skills for Success programmes as an intern, a host, and is now training as an assessor. 

In 2011 I started my placement at the Black Watch Castle and Museum, having secured a place on the Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) graduate Interns programme. With just 20 interns across Scotland, I felt very fortunate. The one year programme was a huge opportunity to develop new skills and learn about the sector, something that I couldn’t do while working and studying for my degree.

The programme was everything I thought it would be and more. Working at the museum full-time meant that I learned a variety of skills and gained lots of experience in a short space of time. My time as an intern gave me the confidence to apply for a curatorial position in 2013 at the St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum. I was amazed when I was offered the post, but my new employer wanted someone with wide-ranging experience. Thanks to the Interns programme, I was able to demonstrate that.

Just two short years later, I found myself on the other side of the programme. In 2015, the Preservation Trust was accepted as a host for an MGS Heritage Horizons Trainee. As a small organisation with only one full-time member of staff, we could offer the opportunity to develop skills in different areas of the museum. This variety was necessary for the trainee to complete the different units of their vocational qualification (SVQ 3) in Museums and Galleries Practice. As an organisation, we were keen to increase our capacity and engage with the non-graduate world. On a personal level, I was interested in experiencing the programme as a host and gaining more management experience.

From the outset, being involved in the programme meant that we had to implement some pretty basic but important policies and procedures. No-one had considered them before because we had never needed them! These included an induction procedure and an employee manual. MGS were able to provide some support with this and I also called on our Museum Mentor for advice.

These Trainees were working towards a vocational qualification and so their learning journey was somewhat different from previous programmes. It was important for Trainees to have enough time within their working week to dedicate to their portfolio and to meet with their assessor. A morning or an afternoon each week seemed to be enough time. It was a big responsibility being line manager, but thankfully there was a wider support network available. Our trainee was supported by the programme manager, the assessor and the Preservation Trust’s Museum Convenor. MGS also offered a mentoring scheme for Trainees to support them with any issues and their CPD. For host organisations, geographical networks sprung up to allow line managers to share experience and get advice.

From a ‘first-time’ host perspective it was definitely more work than I anticipated. This was mainly due to being a bit unprepared at the beginning and over-relying on one or two people. Reflecting back, it would have been beneficial to delegate the Trainee’s learning to several key persons. The qualification is quite advanced for someone coming into the sector with little to no experience; having more staff or skilled volunteers involved would have been a real advantage.

Overall, being involved in the Skills for Success programme was a valuable experience. New policies and procedures were embedded within the organisation and the Trainee brought fresh ideas and increased capacity. For me personally it was a fantastic CPD opportunity.

Having worked with a Trainee, I was keen to continue my involvement and jumped at the chance to become an assessor for the SVQ3 Museums and Galleries Practise qualification. I believe that the qualification will have two important roles. It will open closed doors for new entrants to the sector, and allow existing staff to formalise their skills, knowledge and experience. After many years of limited routes into the sector and much discussion about diversifying the workforce, this qualification is a step in the right direction.

Want to get involved?

In January 2018 we launched Skills for Success, which will see a cohort of 22 non-graduate learners (18 entry level and 4 management level) taking part in a one year paid placement in museums across Scotland. Applications for host museums are open now, and the deadline is 12 March 2018. Applications for trainees will open in May 2018.

You can also hear more of Sam’s thoughts on the Intern Programme and Heritage Horizons in the video below.

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