Taking on apprentices at the V&A

 26 March 2014

As a renowned institution at the forefront of the cultural heritage sector, the V&A is keen to develop the skills of those working in the creative and cultural industries.

They have started working with Kensington & Chelsea College to deliver their own creative and cultural apprenticeship programme.

Taking on creative apprentices

The V&A have involved a number of high-profile organisations in this project.

Organisations that have taken part include The Science Museum, Historic Royal Palaces and The Whitechapel Gallery.

Among those taking part in the Apprenticeship Programme are: The Science Museum, Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Opera House, Orleans House Gallery, Surrey History Centre, Whitechapel Gallery, The Lightbox and The Verulamium Museum.

All the apprentices are working at the V&A's Cultural Heritage Assessment Centre.

Gaining accredited status

The V&A Training and Development Department was awarded its status as an accredited assessment centre for all Cultural Heritage National Vocational Qualifications in 2004. 

That means that the V&A can act as provider and assessor of all programmes developed by the training department, technical services, conservation and collections. 

It also comes with additional benefits for the museum workforce: line managers and more experienced staff can be trained as assessors; the V&A can deliver qualifications to external staff within the industry and they can also provide external and online assessment.

Currently, the V&A has 112 registered assessors, all of whom can assess the full range of cultural heritage qualifications currently available.

Making the apprenticeship process more streamlined

By working as a Group Training Association in partnership with Kensington & Chelsea College, the V&A is able to streamline its recruitment and training processes.

The V&A works closely with Kensington & Chelsea College to deliver apprenticeships.

That means that employers are relieved of the advertising and shortlisting process as Kensington & Chelsea College manage this themselves.

The College also shortlists the candidates that match the criteria for the job and sends the shortlist to the employer to choose those to be interviewed. 

The candidates are contacted by the college to attend interviews at the employer's location.

Two weeks' pre-employment training is given before the successful candidates start work, and employers can include their own policies and procedures in this process to speed up the entry into the workplace.

Apprentices starting work

Once the apprentices start work, they're left to become accustomed to the new environment for a month so they can become immersed in their new roles.

They attend an induction at the V&A with their line managers and are introduced to their assessor. This is the person who will take them through the qualification.

Working as a GTA, the V&A have been able to streamline the apprenticeship process.

Thereafter, they attend training for four hours every month for six months. Working with other apprentices, they deliver projects and presentations, and they also meet with their assessors in their workplaces for an hour every six to eight weeks in order to work on their portfolio.

The line managers attend the first meeting so they can agree the work programme and the methods to be used to gather the evidence for accreditation.

Progress reports are regularly sent to the college to monitor attendance and achievements, and the V&A assessment centre monitors the quality of training closely to ensure everything is kept rigorous and up to date.

Thoughts on apprenticeships

“As an employer, one of the easiest things you can do to boost the skills of employees and increase the productivity of your organisation is to invest in an apprenticeship programme," says Pat McCann, NVQ Manager at the V&A.

“Apprentices can often transform the culture and workforce in an organisation for the better.

"The apprentices involved with our apprenticeship programme have all been given an introduction to the cultural heritage sector - something very valuable, as they don't generally have sector-specific experience already.”

“I think it’s a brilliant course, and a much better alternative to traditional college or university study."

“The apprentices we've worked with have contributed to the business in a positive way and are full of ideas.

"The programme is also a great way to network with those in the industry and share ideas which could be put into practice in the workplace.

“Kensington & Chelsea College has been very supportive and we have developed a very good working partnership with them.

"We hope to take on more apprentices in the future, as they are the future employees who will be working within the sector and great role models for the up and coming generation.”

Views from the apprentices

“The opportunity I have been given is brilliant.

"I enjoy working in the arts and I have more recently picked up an interest in museums that I had not had before working for Orleans House. 

"I believe that the collaboration between the college and the V&A is great, and works very well.  I wouldn’t have had the chance otherwise," says Christopher Burton from Orleans House Gallery.

“I think it is a great opportunity to gain experience in heritage and I have enjoyed learning about the creative sector. 

"Furthermore I have enjoyed visiting the V&A as it gives me a chance to experience the museum and learn from it”, comments Owen Dixon from Surrey History Centre

“I am happy with the course so far. It has really opened my eyes to a career I didn’t think existed.  It has also opened my eyes to pursuing a career in the heritage sector," says Dan Hawkins from Historic Royal Palaces

It has shown me that I really want to continue working in galleries and museums. 

“I think it’s a brilliant course, and a much better alternative to traditional college or university study. 

"So far being in the workplace has been great. I’m getting all the experience I want and need.

"I also like how I’m not the only apprentice within my organisation. This means bonding with others and finding out about others’ experiences," says Fouad Halawi from Historic Royal Palaces

“I think this course is great for me and is giving me the experiences needed for any creative jobs.

"It has shown me that I really want to continue working in galleries and museums. Coming to the V&A is giving us more opportunities and showing us different paths we can go down. Everyone is very friendly and helpful," says Jennifer Susan  Webb from The Lightbox.


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