Getting to Know You: Creative Skillset Media Archive Traineeships

This is the fourth post of our series titled Getting to Know You. The series was developed as a way to introduce and connect potential students with current audiovisual archiving programs from around the world. This series was also part of a panel presentation by representatives from a sampling of programs at the 2015 AMIA conference in Portland, Oregon.

Below is a guest post by Madeline Bates, Programme Manager, Creative Skillset Media Archive Traineeships. She can be contacted at madelineb[at] for further questions about the program.



1. When was your program established and how has it developed?

The Media Archive Traineeships first ran in 2015, building upon a pilot programme delivered by Film London and FOCAL International in 2009 and is essentially an industry response to the lack of formal training or media archive education opportunities in the UK. The traineeships are managed by Creative Skillset, still working in partnership with Film London and FOCAL International, and have been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future programme, which aims to ensure the sustainability of UK’s media archive sector through skills training. In essence, creating new cohorts of aspiring archivists who are able to carve out careers in 21st century archiving, grounded in both the traditional skills required of this varied profession as well as being skilled and aware of contemporary workflows and practices. And, importantly (due to our funding) trainees are paid a living wage bursary throughout the programme.

We’re a young programme, now in our second year, and the traineeships have developed into a 6-month intensive vocational training programme comprised of 5 weeks of class based training, 1 week of virtual training and 20 weeks of industry placements. Through the programme, the trainees have been placed in a diverse array of organisations, including: BFI Archive; British Museum; Yorkshire Film Archive; BBC Archive; ITV Archive; Deluxe Media Europe and Pinewood Studios.

2. What type(s) of degree(s)/certification(s) does your program offer?

Rather than a formal Qualification, this is an industry-endorsed programme, from which participants can take away skills and character references from their work placements and mentors. The professional relationships that they build through the programme, we hope, will kick-start their career, and has led to many opportunities for recent graduates, 85% of our trainees (12 out of a cohort of 14) have been employed in the sector as archive assistants, technicians or researchers. In the future our goal is to develop a longer term apprenticeship programme, which will be the legacy of the current programme.


Some of the 2015 archive trainees working on an archive screening programme at the British Museum, as part of their class training

3. Typical class size? Faculty size and backgrounds?

In 2015 we took on 14 trainees and this year’s cohort consists of 16 participants. We have always intended to keep the group size as small as possible while still being able to partner with 25 – 30 employers. We have a core teaching group of 3 – 4 tutors, in addition to around 10-15 industry guest speakers who deliver lectures and talks during the 6 week intensive training. Additionally each trainee has one-on-one access to their professional supervisors and teams during the work placements. We also pair each trainee with a mentor, who will be an experienced archivist or working in the archive sector, to offer support and guidance throughout the 6 month programme.

The traineeships are structured so that class training sits in the middle and bookends their two placements. The first block of training concentrates on introducing the trainees to fundamentals such as early cinema technologies and the history of film archiving in the UK, as well as practical film handling, digital asset management and archive ethics. The second, more advanced training block, explores DAM workflows and operations, digital preservation, copyright and archive research in greater depth. We also have a series of sessions dedicated to professional skills, which are broad-ranging and intend to prepare the trainees for the realities of finding a job! Obviously the programme is different for each trainee as the content and experiences are contingent on the placements they undertake. We therefore try to tailor the class training to give them a broad overview while also encouraging them to actively apply these lessons to the workplace. The class training also provides them with a space for reflecting on their professional and personal development.

4. What are your expectations of students for admission and for completing the program?


Trainees mastering (and documenting) the steenbecks at BFI practice sessions

We are committed to making the traineeships as inclusive as possible and encourage applicants who might bring a diversity of backgrounds and experiences to the industry. Therefore we don’t select trainees based on particular academic or professional qualifications. Through the application and interview process, we expect to see a demonstrable commitment to a career in the media archive & heritage sector in the UK.

As at least 77% of the overall programme is supported on-the-job learning through our work placements, trainees have to be able to live and work in the UK. Trainees, however, do not necessarily need to be UK citizens and since the programme started we have had a combination of UK, European and North American participants.

The class based training course which is now 6 weeks long, requires trainees to complete various written and research assignments and presentations in order to complete the traineeships. Trainees also have to complete a training plan, along with their supervisors on placements, which helps them to take structure their placement as well as clearly understand and consider their training objectives. This record is not only a requirement of the programme but can also become a future resource for the trainee when preparing for future jobs.

5. Are there any special events, programs, or professional groups your students are expected or encouraged to take part in for further professional development?

Our alumni receive a year’s membership to FOCAL International after graduating from the programme. As trainees, we have taken them to a specially curated programme on working with archives at Sheffield Doc/Fest and will be taking them to participate in this year’s Giornate Del Cinema Muto in October. Before this, in late September, they will also attend FOCAL’s Archive Research & Copyright Conference. Trainees have also benefited from discounted passes to events such as the Independent Cinema Office’s Archive Screening day and the Tate Modern’s Media in Transition conference.

Through the relationship with mentors and their host employers, our trainees also often get access to, or tours of, different archives.

We encourage trainees to engage with communities and creative projects in the new cities or regions that they may have relocated to on placement. Additionally, the class training is located in London where there are lots of different programmes and events Trainees can go to; from DIY/Pop-Up archive screenings to retrospectives at the BFI.

6. What does your program specialize in?


Archive trainees talk to tourists for a Film London community screening programme at the British Museum

One of our original aims of the programme was to pass on “legacy” skills, otherwise at risk of being lost, to the next generation of archivists, while at the same time ensuring that those traditional skills are married with contemporary working practices that are relevant to future job roles – those “Skills for the Future” that our Heritage Lottery Funding supports! So we specialise in vocational training that connects our trainees to working organisations and archive partners, whom we closely work with. Our programme is also defined by the financial support (the trainees are paid) and the pastoral and professional support (through the project team and the industry mentors).

7. What relationship do you maintain with alumni?

We try to keep a close relationship with our alumni so that we know what they’ve gone on to do. Creative Skillset broker and facilitate work placements across the creative industries, and some of our 2015 alumni went on to further placements after they’d completed the 2015 traineeships, including with the London Film School Archive, BBC and Huntley Film Archive. We have also introduced our alumni to our new cohort, as they can offer first-hand advice and guidance to those following the same route into the industry.

8. What is the best way to find out more about your program?

You should read our traineeship strand on the Creative Skillset website.

Or contact the Programme Manager, Madeline Bates.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s