College upskills history museum's workforce as part of £15m regional project

Gateshead College is helping ensure the future of a nearby museum by upskilling its workforce in an innovative local project, reports Samantha King.

Employees of Beamish, an open-air museum in County Durham, are taking part in free business skills training delivered by their local college to ensure they’re well equipped to support visitors and handle the day-to-day running of the attraction.

Courses range from search engine optimisation training (SEO) for communications staff, Excel and Microsoft Access short courses, Photoshop training for team members working on on-site displays, and even construction site safety work for when the museum undergoes expansion work.

The staff are keen to apply what they have learnt in their job roles

The training is part of the regional skills and enterprise programme Go>Grow, led by Gateshead College in partnership with 30 training providers across the north-east, who are each offering free training to employees of selected local organisations and attractions in order to upskill the region.

The Go>Grow programme was launched after the college secured £15 million of funding from the European Social Fund through the Education and Skills Funding Agency to run the project. The North-east Local Enterprise Partnership and the North-east of England Chamber of Commerce are backing the scheme.

“There’s such a wide variety of roles at Beamish and it’s growing significantly,” said Ivan Jepson, the college’s director of business development. “Being able to closely support their development and develop training for them allows us to match what they’re looking for with our students here, providing them with a source of future talent as well.

“Hopefully we will also get involved in helping them deliver some of their apprenticeship programmes as we move down the line.”

Ivan Jepson

The Beamish museum, which explores life in the north-east during the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s, was recently voted ‘large visitor attraction of the year’ for the fourth year running at the North-east England Tourism Awards.

It is currently undergoing redevelopment after receiving a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Remaking Beamish project, which will boost visitor numbers and create around 95 new jobs and up to 50 apprenticeships.

“These bespoke courses have been well received by the staff that attended and they are now keen to apply what they have learnt in their job roles,” said Michelle Lagar, Remaking Beamish project officer. “The main aim for us all is to continue to provide the best possible experiences for visitors.”