How do you approach the delivery of a careers learning experience for 129 young people? This blog explores how we supported a whole year group of Year 9 (14–15-year-olds) students who all chose Locomotion as their work experience option.
To set the scene, Locomotion is a railway museum in Shildon, County Durham. Shildon was a major centre for railway engineering, from the opening of the famous Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 to the extensive Shildon Wagon Works.
As part of the National Railway Museum, Locomotion celebrates this legacy, starting with exhibits linked to the early railways and the North East coal fields heritage through to record breaking and prototype vehicles. In 2024, a new collections building called New Hall will be opening, significantly expanding the museum.
How THE PROGRAMME began
We have worked with Greenfield Academy, our local Secondary school, for the past two years. They initially approached us in 2022 through their involvement with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) employer engagement scheme and they wanted to connect with Locomotion as a partner organization.
In the first year, we provided job descriptions for a variety of roles across the museum so students could develop an understanding about the types of job roles at Locomotion and the qualities and skills required for them.
We then visited the school to do an introductory assembly about those different museum job roles and teams. The students were then tasked with creating infographic posters which focused on particular roles that were of interest to them, which they then presented back to us on a follow up visit to their school along with representatives from the NELEP.
MAKING IT Bigger and better for a second year
The careers lead at Greenfield was keen to work with us again this year, and we felt that we could build upon the approach by incorporating opportunities for the students to visit the museum as well as investigating job roles and career options. The NELEP initiative had finished, and we were delighted the Academy wanted to continue to work with us as a local organisation partner independently.
So, we hatched an ambitious plan. The Academy decided to use the Locomotion study as their key careers focus for all of their Year 9s, and visits to the museum were planned for their work experience week in early June.
We also thought there was a great opportunity to include Nationwide Engineering the company who are currently constructing New Hall at the museum. Nationwide have been working closely with us around community and audience communications about the exciting developments on-site, and they were happy to support us with the Academy work.
We began working with students in April with a visit to the Academy with Nationwide staff to introduce the museum and the programme. Students then spent time investigating job descriptions and researching the organisation. Later in June, across two afternoons, all 129 of the Year 9 students visited the museum. It was all hands-on deck as staff from different teams representing different job roles spoke to students and answered questions in 10-minute rotating group sessions.
Achieving Great outcomes
The students talking to people in person about their careers really brought the learning to life beyond reading job descriptions. They came away with a deeper understanding of the job opportunities a science museum can offer, and we signposted to our Locomotion Youth Team volunteering option for 14- to 18-year-olds.
One student even approached Nationwide staff to ask about apprenticeship options in the construction industry. She said she had never considered a STEM based career before that day and was now really interested.
We followed up the museum visits with a poster competition Nationwide set for students to promote New Hall. We returned to the Academy to look at the work and chose a winning team who received gift vouchers from Nationwide and their poster design was shared on social media.
We will continue to support Greenfield and look forward to building on this model of engagement with them. Many of the young people who attend the Academy live locally to the museum and we’d love to inspire and encourage them to consider Locomotion as a gateway to developing their STEM careers aspirations, as visitors, volunteers, or even future employees.
We really enjoyed working with Greenfield Academy. We don’t often get to engage much with secondary schools, and we would love to increase the number of partnerships that we have with them.
When we’ve talked to local schools about this, the biggest barrier tends to be taking students off timetable for school trips in addition to the expense of the transport. We have found a more reciprocal approach of going out into Secondary schools to support a visit to the museum helps teachers to justify the additional budget and timetabling needed to take students out of school. The blended approach we took with Greenfield, us going into the school and then supporting a split year group visit to the museum, worked well and they are keen to work with us in the same way again.
Having a variety of people from different jobs for the students to talk to was also important as we wanted to show the range of opportunities in museums. We supported the museum staff to get involved by creating a rota to enable them to get actively involved around their everyday work.
It is something we will build upon for young people in our local area as we know we can support their careers awareness and experience in this way, and it builds a more sustainable and reciprocal relationship with our surrounding schools.
What to read next
If you enjoyed reading this Transforming Practice Blog, here are others with a similar theme: