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Training builds a deeper heritage

The Scottish Museums Council has launched a new strategy to develop the skills of its 11,000 staff and volunteers in an attempt to combat the poor working conditions many have to put up with.

Well-trained, motivated staff will improve the quality of the visitor experience, Patricia Ferguson, Culture Minister, says.

Museum staff complain they face poor pay and conditions, with work sometimes only seasonal. Funding can often be tied to short-term contracts and when staff leave they take their knowledge and skills with them. This, in turn, makes succession planning and career progression difficult.

The SMC wants to establish a learning culture and to ensure that investment in people is regarded as a priority, rather than an unnecessary expense.

Joanne Orr, the SMC's chief executive, said: "Workforce development is critical to the continued improvement of Scotland's museums. This strategy sets out to encourage the cultural, educational and wider sector to acknowledge and invest in this most important resource in order to prolong the growth and success of Scotland's museums and galleries."

The strategy has identified four key priorities for development:

* To enhance leadership in all its forms within the sector, including board development.

* To support staff through investment in education, skills and continuing professional and personal development (CPD).

* To develop and support volunteers and volunteer managers.

* To ensure diversity becomes part of the everyday operation of museums.

The national workforce development strategy for Scotland's museums is one of a suite of four strategies under the title "The way forward". The museums council's ICT and learning and access strategies have already been published. Its national collections development strategy will be launched in the autumn.

Currently, the council has 206 members which manage 341 museums all over Scotland, including 161 independent, 142 local authority, 31 university and seven regimental museums.

* Highland Folk Museum operates on a seasonal basis and runs an annual two-week staff training and development programme prior to opening for the new season. All staff are trained not only about the museum and their own jobs but about the roles of their colleagues. Aspects covered include customer care, standards and best practice, working with the collections and interpretation, first aid, health and safety, food hygiene, tour guide training and learning about traditional crafts. Staff have also been given child protection and disability awareness training and, more recently, exposure to issues surrounding the gypsy and traveller community.

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