How I got here
I have always had a strong interest in history and museums and was confident from an early age that I would like to work in a museum or cultural heritage related job role.
However, in my final years of secondary school, I was advised that the only route into the cultural heritage sector was via university. Although I had sufficient qualifications, as a young person with autism I felt that university wasn’t quite right for me. My preferred style of learning is through real-life practical experience, rather than in a more theoretical classroom type setting. I had heard about apprenticeship schemes and thought having the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience would be the best way for me to enter the sector. To maximise my chances of acceptance onto an apprenticeship scheme, I set out to gain some actual work experience in local museums during holiday periods and through other opportunities such as internships.
I was lucky to land various work experience placements before my apprenticeship, including a year long supported internship with Hillingdon Council.
Towards the end of my internship, I started looking for apprenticeship opportunities in museums. I came across an apprenticeship in the British Library’s Learning team. As an autistic person with an avid interest in cultural heritage and a frequent museum visitor, I felt that I would be a good fit for the role. I decided to apply, as I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to gain some valuable practical experience and increase my knowledge and experience of the cultural heritage sector. After a comprehensive recruitment process, I was successful in securing the apprenticeship and started at the Library in September 2021.
What I do now
Although the Learning team offers a range of programmes aimed at different audiences, the two main areas I support are the access and Outreach and adult learning programmes. The aspect I enjoy most about my role is its variety. I can be involved in supporting access tours of the exhibitions for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing; or assisting with creative workshops aimed at explaining the role of the Library to visitors who speak English as a second language. Other times, I may help oversee online courses about a specialist topic such as Old English; or support colleagues with a Family Day.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far and it has been a great introduction to the world of work. Throughout the apprenticeship, my colleagues have been consistently supportive and understanding of my autism and ensured that I truly feel an integral part of the team. I am confident that the experiences gained will prove invaluable when applying for future opportunities. I would definitely recommend the British Library’s Early Careers scheme to young people considering employment in the cultural heritage sector – as securing the chance to work at one of the UK’s most important such institutions has truly been an incredible experience!