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Workforce Development

MLA has an ambitious agenda relating to workforce development. We take it very seriously as a key issue facing museums, archives and libraries. As part of the Annual Workplan 2002/3 we will be working on a strategy for workforce development which will reflect the concerns of, and address the issues facing, the sector.

This strategy will define MLA's role alongside those of the professional bodies, colleges and training providers, the new Sector Skills Councils, and museums, archives and libraries themselves. Our intention is to look at all members of the workforce within the sector, paid and unpaid, and at levels and roles.

Strategy for Workforce Development

MLA commissioned Demos to carry out a piece of research which:

  • maps current work in training, leadership, and workforce development within the museums, archives and libraries domains;
  • draws together existing and future commitments in MLA's existing workplans which relate to workforce development and places them within the context of the overall strategy;
  • identifies a role for MLA in these areas by consulting widely with appropriate stakeholders and assessing current and imminent developments such as Sector Skills Councils, Renaissance in the Regions and the new Regional Agencies.

This work will be used to inform MLA in the development of our workforce strategy. The report is available now:

Executive Summary: format: pdf v.1.4 PDF (101 KB); format: doc Word (170 KB)

Full Report: format: pdf v.1.4 PDF (1.07 MB); format: doc Word (735 KB)

For further information on MLA's workforce development strategy please contact:

Chris Fardon, Senior Workforce Development Adviser,; or Val King, Workforce Development Adviser, email:

MLA's more recent activity on workforce development is outlined below.

Progress to date
Sharing Museum Skills Millennium Awards (SMSMA)
Sector Skills Councils

Progress to date

February 2004

format: pdf v.1.4February 2004 Update (PDF 48KB)
format: docFebruary 2004 Update (Word 56KB)
December 2003 format: pdf v.1.4December 2003 Update (PDF 96KB)
format: docDecember 2003 Update (Word 179KB)



One of the ten key objectives listed in MLA's Manifesto was the need to set out what needs to be done to improve the quality of leadership in the sector, and to pilot a sector-wide leadership training course. Leadership is an issue of concern across the sector; identified in Renaissance in the Regions for museums and in the Public Library Workforce Survey, Recruit Retain and Lead for libraries and in MLA's Archives Strategy.

We are tackling this issue on two fronts:

  1. A project to support present sector leaders, which is being carried out in collaboration with the National Museum Directors Conference. A seminar, chaired by Kate Adie, took place on May 22nd 2002 at which leading figures from museums, archives and libraries and other sectors, gave addresses.

  2. In the longer term the development of targeted provision for the leaders of the future must be our main concern. MLA's role in developing this, in partnership, will form part of the workforce development strategy. Some initial work has been done on museums and the arts with the Clore Duffield foundation but MLA wishes to extend this across its sector as a whole. As a first step MLA has also funded the Quality Leaders project to improve the leadership potential of ethnic minority workers in libraries.



Sharing Museum Skills Millennium Awards (SMSMA)

MLA and one of its predecessor bodies, the MGC administered the very successful Sharing Museum Skills Millennium Awards scheme whose aim was provide professional development for the individual and to improve the quality of museums, archives, and library special collections for their users. The scheme provided grants to enable staff and volunteers working within these organisations to share, learn and apply new skills through paid secondments. The Awards were funded by the Millennium Commission which is one of the 'good causes' supported by the National Lottery.

SMSMA came to an end in March 2002 and as a requirement of the Millennium Commission, MLA commissioned an evaluation of the scheme. The assessment of the operation of the scheme was conducted by the Centre for Information Research (CIRT) at the University of Central England. Its conclusions were that overall the scheme was a valuable initiative well-liked by those who took part and by those who were aware of it. The following two comments illustrate the value of the scheme for participants:

"I consider the scheme to have been extremely useful and fruitful - bearing tangible results - both for the profession and museum community at large and specifically in our particular case. I hope it can continue in some form."

"Absolutely perfect - easy to apply, full support and advice given. Fantastic idea. We need it permanently!"

Read the CIRT executive summary and case studies: format: pdf v.1.4PDF 293KB

A second piece of work looking at future options for the scheme was undertaken separately by Anne Murch and Gaby Porter. At briefing stage it was agreed that secondments represent only one approach to supporting professional development and skill sharing and this research was therefore broadly focused to include a comparison with other professional development schemes operating across the arts and wider cultural sector and an exploration of possible partnerships in the setting up of any future secondment scheme. An appendix summarising other professional activities was included.

Read the appendices: format: pdf v.1.4PDF 343KB

As both these projects were to inform MLA the full reports were not published.


Sector Skills Councils

MLA' reviewed MLA review the Cultural Heritage National Training Organisation (CHNTO) and the Information Services National Training Organisation (isNTO) in 2001. This review was overtaken by the DfEE review of NTOs which culminated in the decision to move towards employer led Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). The Sector Skills Development Agency website is

Our review identified key issues to which MLA is committed and these remain our commitments still:

  • there should be a strong and effective network of SSCs
  • they should have the enthusiastic support of the sector, employers and work force
  • there should be greater clarity than has existed to date about their central purpose
  • their relationship with DfES agendas should be clarified
  • there must be greater synergy between the work of the cultural SSC and that of MLA and other cultural agencies.

MLA's preferred option has always been for a single SSC covering the entire museums, archives and libraries domain. However, throughout 2002/3 two relevant bids have been developed: the Creative and Cultural Industries bid ( and the Information and Learning Skills Councils bid ( These are due to be sent to the Sector Skills Development Agency by September 2003. MLA is lending its support to both.



Volunteers play a vital role in our sector, yet clear and authoritative information on precisely who volunteers and why, has been hard to come by. To address this gap in our knowledge, MLA commissioned the Institute of Volunteering Research to develop a demographic profile of volunteers in museums, archives and libraries in England. The final report and its recommendations will enable MLA to formulate a strategic view of volunteering across the sector which recognises their contribution and will assist us in future policy decisions.

Read the report: format: pdf v.1.4 PDF format (1.6MB); doc Word format (1.1MB)

Appendices: format: pdf v.1.4 PDF format (422KB); doc Word format (324KB)


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