Championing a return to apprenticeships

Science Museum Group supports training to offer skills for life.

The Science Museum Group has championed a return to vocational training this year by offering 10 apprenticeships across its museums, where young recruits can learn their craft on the job and embrace the educational skills required by a museum’s learning department.

Jason Brown, 19, and Steven Foxton, 31, are each at different stages of their engineering training, but both hope that their apprenticeships at the National Railway Museum will lead to a career in the rail industry.

Jason, whose scheme runs for four years while studying for an HNC in mechanical engineering, has qualified as a guard and steam locomotive fireman – and he’s loving it. "There have been a few wow moments!” he says “I even got to drive Tornado – a new A1 steam engine that was built locally. It was brilliant to feel that amount of power".

Apprentices work on a locomotive at the National Railway Museum, Shildon.

Steven, a former coach builder, is on an Engineering Heritage Skills Initiative placement and broadening his knowledge to include restoration techniques. By keeping lost heritage skills alive, his training in itself becomes a form of preservation. He says “The National Railway Museum is giving me a fantastic opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester is employing a 17-year-old apprentice administrator in its Learning department and the Science Museum in London has recruited four apprentices aged 16-19 from diverse backgrounds to work in its interactive galleries. The lucky four were chosen from 120 applicants and are working towards a Cultural Venue Operations Level 2 qualification.

Also at the Science Museum, Head of Workshops Steve Long – himself a former engineering apprentice – recruited full-time apprentices in woodworking last year. Thanks to the increase in small-scale shows at the Museum, Steve says that woodworking is a "massive part of what we do" and is especially pleased with the mounts made by the apprentices for the current Oramics and alchemy displays – "The best of any we’ve made," he says.