Why invest in training?

As part of the Conserving Local Communities Heritage (CLOCH) project, Glamorgan Archives has been working with Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, a Further Education college based in North Wales, for nearly three years to deliver the Level 2 Certificate in Libraries, Archives and Information Services to the CLOCH trainees. During this time, staff from Glamorgan Archives and our project partners have also completed training in assessment and quality assurance to support the delivery of the training, and we are very grateful for the additional funding from CyMAL: Museums Archives Libraries Wales which has allowed this to happen. It has been a learning experience for all of us, but the benefits have far outweighed the challenges.

You can find out more about the background to the CLOCH project here http://www.glamarchives.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=2,45&parent_directory_id=1 and the year long placements provide very practical skills which will enable the trainees to develop their careers in a wide-range of settings in the heritage sector. We felt it was important to provide a framework for this training, preferably around a qualification or accredited learning, to ensure that the trainees would take away something quantifiable at the end of their year with us – and the Level 2 qualification provides this.

For us, the eight units of the qualification ensure the trainees have a thorough grounding in the practical skills and knowledge that they would need to work as a library assistant, archive assistant or searchroom staff. We could be confident that completing the qualification would demonstrate to potential employers that the trainees have the skills and knowledge that they need because the qualifications have been developed by professionals in the sector.

Six units look at very hands-on skills and this is delivered and assessed entirely in the work place. For an existing member of staff, undertaking the Level 2 qualification might not necessarily be about gaining new skills but about improving understanding and knowledge. It is the way that the skill is assessed that demonstrates that the learner understands why they are doing something, not just how to do it. We can all, very easily, fall into the trap of doing something because we’ve always done it that way or providing inductions for new staff that show how to do something – so that they can get behind the counter and start helping our users – rather than explaining why we do it. Undertaking the qualification has not only tested our trainees’ skills but has prompted their colleagues and supervisors to review and re-think why they do the things that they do. And when you’re working in a busy service, you very often don’t get the time to do that.

Two units are knowledge units which allow you to think in more detail about your own service and more widely about the wider context of the heritage sector. Our trainees have undertaken the qualification in a variety of different settings from archive services and museums to small branch libraries and busy central libraries and they have the opportunity to visit each other’s placements to see how a different service operates. These differences also impact on your role on the front-line in that library or archive service and it also makes you think about how these differences affect the people coming in to use your library or archive.

And bringing together learners across different services has also helped share best practice. Our trainees have completed one of the more technical units – on protecting, securing and copying information and/or material – here at the archives where these skills include a focus on preservation and conservation and the care of fragile documents. The trainees can then take these more specialist skills out to their libraries and local studies services and share their knowledge.

We hope that our involvement in the qualification has also raised the profile of vocational qualifications for the sector. At a time when professional skills are under threat from budget cuts and the potential handover of services to communities or volunteers it is important to demonstrate that staff at all levels need training and professional skills. From data protection to health and safety, from working with vulnerable adults or children to implementing the Welsh Language Act – learners with the Level 2 qualification understand why these things are important and how it effects what they do on a day-to-day basis. It is sometimes too easy to take for granted what our trainees and all our staff do everyday, all day to support every single person who comes into the library, archive or museum.

Our involvement in delivering work-based learning and a vocational qualification has had a positive impact on our trainees, our project partners and their staff and our services and it would be wonderful to see that one of the legacies of the CLOCH project is the take up of vocational qualifications by more staff and that CyMAL continue to provide the funding to support skills development at all levels.

Emma Stagg, CLOCH Project Manager