National Museum of Flight - Museums Association

National Museum of Flight

Engaging with Experience is a cross-generational training project that sees experienced engineers sharing practical, hands-on skills with young people. The participants gain confidence and skills which might aid them when seeking employment.

The engineers take pleasure in sharing their skills which might otherwise not be passed on, or be lost altogether. A freelance trainer has been engaged to ensure that the workshops run smoothly.

Originally we aimed to work with young people aged 16-24 not in full-time education, training or employment exclusively. After discussion with a local secondary school, Knox Academy, we were convinced that working with some participants as young as 13 would make the project even more effective. The teachers saw a benefit for pupils at risk of disengaging from education.

Fridays were chosen as pupils in East Lothian do not attend school on a Friday afternoon, so participants miss half a school day and give up some of their own time.

The practical skills at the centre of these workshops include the use of hand tools as the aviation industry, which is still strong in Scotland, has identified this as a skills deficit. The original concept was that the young people work with the engineers on a long-term project relating to our collections.

An opportunity presented itself in the form of a De Havilland Gypsy Queen aero engine that was un-accessioned and partially disassembled.

The participants have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to lift the cowlings on some of the aircraft in the collection and see how similar engines are fitted. The choice of a piston engine appealed to those on the project who are interested in cars and motorbikes.

The young people will have the opportunity to show their achievements to our visitors at some of our events.

The Wheels and Wings Show, which this year takes place on 25 September attracts a wide range of vintage car and aircraft enthusiasts.

This will be a good occasion to both celebrate the project and possibly even recruit more volunteer engineers.

Engaging with Experience has been running since March 2016 so we are waiting to see the impact on the long-term employability of students.

What we have seen already is a high level of enthusiasm (even when building their flat pack work benches without instructions) and satisfaction amongst all involved. The cross-generational working relationship has been hugely positive.

The project forms part of the activity plan to accompany the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported redevelopment of two of the museum’s second world war hangars.

The original planned timescale for the activity plan was 18 months but has now been lengthened to three years with support from the Robertson Trust.

These workshops are being seen as a trial and we will adapt them in response to evaluation. Their value is demonstrable and we hope they will attract sponsorship, which will allow them to be sustainable beyond the initial project.

Adam Love-Rodgers is learning officer at the National Museum of Flight