Thinktank is Birmingham’s Science Museum. It is notoriously hard to find work in this sector, and although people have moved across Britain to take up entry-level positions here, we realised that we needed to work locally.
We operate in quite a disadvantaged area, so we wanted to provide jobs and skills for local youngsters, with the long-term aim of building new audiences and diversifying our workforce.
The New York Hall of Science has had to deal with similar problems. It invited us to see its own project, known as a Science and Heritage Career Ladder (S&HCL), that it has been running for the past 25 years.
A colleague and I went to New York last November for a complete immersion in how it worked – how it went about developing local youngsters and encouraging them to follow a career in science, while building up its own workforce.
We’ve set up our own programme – seven teenagers will start work here next week, for four weeks. They were chosen out of 63 applicants, and live or work locally in inner-city Birmingham.
We were looking for people who are enthusiastic about science or heritage, interested in careers in science, and had good communication skills and confidence, but not over-confidence. We wanted to grow people, rather than have them arriving knowing everything. And they needed to be open to new ideas.
During their time with us, participants will be working and training at the same time. They will be working with ‘gallery enablers’, helping with visitor interactivity, and finding out how people learn in a museum. They will also be dealing with elements of customer services and heritage and collection care.
We’re hoping that this will be a sustainable project, so that those involved now will be able to help next year’s intake. At the end of the four-week period, we will offer permanent part-time roles to three out of the seven participants.
I really enjoyed being part of the project team, co-ordinating the involvement of the rest of the staff, and making sure we were using the right people with the right skills.
What I have learned, above all, is that when you are recruiting young people, you have to go out to them, rather than wait for them to approach you.
Catherine Price, HR manager, Thinktank