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Hello. My name is Marta and I’m a Visitor Services Apprentice at Ipswich Museums, studying towards an NVQ in Customer Services.

I had been teaching English as a foreign language for over 10 years, before I decided to leave both my profession and my native Poland (see me above) to start a new life in the UK. I found a new home, the love of my life and a fantastic job. I joined the museums in September 2017 and over the past few weeks, together with other apprentices, I’ve been preparing to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week.

Doing this has given me a chance to think more about this wonderful experience and I want to share what it’s like. Firstly, my duties include much more than greeting customers and answering phone calls. I may be…

 

  • introducing a group of teens to King Henry VIII during his Tudor dance classes
  • preparing our rooms for an upcoming wedding
  • wiping sticky fingerprints off a case containing a hoard of Celtic coins
  • leading a school workshop and showing kids how to handle 3,000 years old Egyptian artefacts
  • printing off our newly designed discovery trails
  • telling a wide-eyed toddler a story behind our vicious looking gorillas
  • greeting some contractors fixing our taps
  • having a fascinating conversation about British prehistory with a local teacher
  • disabling an alarm accidentally set off by a visitor

Apart from these day-to-day duties, an apprentice must do a lot of coursework, and I mean a lot. Study time should comprise roughly 20% of working hours. In my case it is more. Simply learning about museum collections alone can take years. I spend time participating in various workshops and learning sessions arranged by Colchester Borough Council. The most recent ones covered emotional resilience, business writing and communication skills. All extremely useful.

Every apprentice also works with their own training provider. They supply materials for the course and make sure it fulfills NVQ criteria. Regular visits by an assessor are designed to monitor my progress, set up monthly assignments and identify areas for improvement. The course covers areas such as work-related legislation, policies and procedures, knowledge of the organisation, role specific skills and many more. I am required to keep a record of my progress, draw conclusions and write essays displaying my understanding of customer service. By the time I gain my qualification, the aim is that I will have thorough and practical knowledge of a customer services role and, not only be competent at my job, but excel at it.

I must admit, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes. I am receiving an outstanding amount of support, though. I have an assigned mentor, who is there for me to discuss any issues in a confidential and professional manner and who has been super helpful in dealing with my initial stress and communication difficulties. My Ipswich colleagues are amazing, warm and friendly people, who took me on board with open arms. The same can be said for all Colchester Borough Council employees. I am only halfway through my apprenticeship, but I can already say it has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my life.

 

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