The museum world was in upheaval in 2010. The public sector funding landscape was changing quickly and dramatically, and not for the better. Concerns over the need to charge or even closure became hot topics of discussion between museum professionals. How to make the most limited resources?
In a feedback session that same year between students and staff at Nottingham Trent University’s MA in Museum and Heritage Management, the students expressed their concern over the job market and their ability to use their new skills and develop their chosen career. They felt they needed more guidance on how to operate as a self-employed professional rather than to expect to walk into a secure position. I recognised that there was a severe danger of a whole generation of graduates being lost to the sector as the opportunities for employment dried up.
Being a professional practitioner and university lecturer I knew something needed to be done to support both the sector and the students. Thus the germ of an idea was born that has culminated in the creation of Culture Syndicates.
The name has shamelessly taken its inspiration from an initiative by the Chief Executive of the Egalitarian Trust, Tim Desmond. He was working on his ‘Education Syndicates’ idea, whereby structured education is delivered across a number of sites thus creating economies of scale and consistent quality. It had the genius of being such a simple yet achievable idea. He was very supportive of my idea of graduate support for the sector as he viewed it as a more general syndicate.
My idea is just as simple, an annually refreshing cohort of professionally trained postgraduates ready and able to support project work in museums and heritage sites. The only proviso is that there must be some payment, however small, so it can show on their CVs as paid work – not voluntary work. I could use my network of contacts to find the work. Thus the graduates are kept in the sector, given more chance of permanent employment, and at the same time helping cash strapped heritage organisations to undertake sustainable projects.
I had no idea whether it would work, but I thought I would give it a go. This blog will be a record of this initiative. I hope to get professionals and graduates contributing to the blog as we will all be learning as we go. I hope we can establish a halfway house into the sector for the generations to come. What is the worst that can happen? The graduates go back to voluntary work