Volunteer Inclusion Projects (VIPs) are run regularly at the Museum of London Archive, but part of the challenge of working with Team CASPA, who are young autistic adults, is providing more of a work experience environment. Only 16% of autistic adults are in work, research from the National Autistic Society (NAS) has revealed this figure has remained the same for the last decade (research carried out Oct 2016)1. This is despite the fact that 77% of the 2,000 autistic adults that NAS interviewed wanted to work.
“Not all autistic people are able to work but there are many who are desperate to find a job which reflects their talents and interests.” Mark Lever, Chief Executive, NAS.2
Travelling into London, working as part of a team or managing your own work are all important skills. Sometimes it is the less defined interactions that can yield the most impact.
Getting to meet and work with Lucy and Adam, two archaeological collections managers at the Museum of London archive, is giving the team an idea of the types of roles that can be found in museums. When you are just starting out on a career, part of the problem is not knowing what you want to do or the type and variety of roles in the workplace.
During this project we have been talking about the role of archaeologists in physically digging up, recording and preserving our past. But to give the team a real sense of the varied roles in archeology, Adam and Lucy gave us a tour of the MOLA offices that are based at Mortimer Wheeler House alongside the Museum of London Archive.
MOLA are an independent charitable company employing over 300 staff across the country. We began our tour looking at the sharp end of their work getting a chance to see where archaeology first comes into the building and the various processes needed to wash, filter and dry the remains of London’s past.
We also had a trip round various departments giving the team an understanding that archaeology is not just about digging up the past. We talked about the roles of project managers, site managers and the vitally important roles of human resources, finance, photographers, IT teams and reception staff, who all have a part to play. The aim was to get these young people to think about the broad spectrum of roles and how their skills can fit in to a bigger team.
As a continuation of this, Adam invited Zey – an Exhibitions Project Assistant at the museum – to come and visit the group to talk about her role in ‘Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail‘ which is currently on at the museum’s Docklands site. Zey did a great job providing an overview of the processes involved in putting on an exhibition, giving us a behind the scenes insight that will be a real bonus when we visit Docklands in a couple of weeks.
Describing graphic designers, technicians, audio visual teams and the role of outside contractors was a great way to give these young people an idea of the types of jobs that play a part in the daily life of the museum. Zey was also a great ambassador as she began her own career as a volunteer on exactly the type of volunteer inclusion project that Team CASPA are undertaking.
Of course giving these young people a glimpse of the jobs out in the workforce is just one part of the bigger picture. This volunteer project will not directly lead onto work at the museum. It may, for some, lead onto more volunteering at the Museum of London in the future or it may give some of Team CASPA the confidence and experience to move on to new volunteer roles in other museums.
The VIP is not a magic wand that provides a job, it is not the answer to all those young autistic people who want to work but find it incredibly hard to get that first step on the ladder. But I hope it is a start. I hope more museums will read about this project and look to their own volunteer recruitment which I hope will lead to opening up opportunities for a more diverse workforce in the not too distant future.
To find out more and follow this project please take a look at the other blogs – https://tinctureofmuseum.wordpress.com/?s=TeamCASPA
For some great advice about employing autistic people please take a look at the National Autistic Society resources – http://www.autism.org.uk/professionals/employers/information-for-employers.aspx
1- Government must tackle the autism employment gap, National Autistic Society, 27th October 2016, [accessed 12th June 2017] http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-10-27-employment-gap.aspx
2 – Government must tackle the autism employment gap, National Autistic Society, 27th October 2016, [accessed 12th June 2017] http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-10-27-employment-gap.aspx