Rhondda Heritage Service invests in first apprentice to bring history back to life

Committed to creating a workforce that represents its community, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council says apprenticeships are ensuring a lasting legacy.


Keen to diversify the routes into the heritage sector, the local authority took the step to hire its first Heritage Outreach apprentice in September 2019. Since strengthening its team with apprentice, Esta Lewis, Heritage Services Operations Manager, Sara Maggs said her role has been crucial to the development of the department over the last year.


Sara said: “Positions within the heritage sector usually come with a prerequisite for a masters or degree qualification, but we knew that what you needed to know for this role you couldn’t learn solely in the classroom. As an organisation, our principles ensure that we promote independent living, build a strong economy and honour diversity. When identifying how best to reflect our core values in practice, an apprenticeship scheme was the perfect fit”.


Since hiring the 23-year-old from Hirwaun, the team has been able to expand and reach more community groups, build and strengthen relationships with community partners and develop bespoke heritage projects.


Sara said: “Esta was the perfect match as she had a passion for our history and had previously volunteered at a local museum where she undertook research and helped to develop exhibitions.”


Esta is undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship in Cultural Heritage at Cardiff and Vale College and is based at the Welsh Mining Experience: Rhondda Heritage Park – an accredited museum that offers an insight into the life of the coal mining community that existed there until the 1980s.


Sara continued: “Her proactive attitude and hands-on approach has meant, as a department, we have been able to engage and reach new audiences. Supporting the completion of her qualification, Esta has been afforded the opportunity to lead on a bespoke project working with Men’s Sheds – a group that’s formed to tackle social isolation and loneliness in men.


“Esta coordinates school visits to the museum, which have been a huge success – so much so that for the first time we have received the Sandford Award, a sector quality assurance for heritage education programmes.


“Taking on our first apprentice required huge amounts of bravery from us as a department, as everything was new, but it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience and the time that we’ve invested has paid off. Esta’s commitment to her role was recognised nationally, earlier this year, being crowned Tomorrow’s Talent 2019 and winning the Apprenticeship Award from her education provider, Cardiff & Vale College.”


Esta said: “My late grandfather, Malcolm ‘Chick’ Chambers, a miner in the Rhondda has always inspired me and I love the fact I’ve found a job where I can keep his story alive, I’m sure he would be really proud. Having gone through the education system and university, my apprenticeship has been the making of me. I have learnt skills in the workplace and I’ve now found the career of my dreams, I couldn’t be happier.”


The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.


For more information about hiring an apprentice visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/skills-and-training-programmes/apprenticeships,  Visit Prentisiaethau Cymru / Apprenticeships Cymru on Facebook or @apprenticewales on Twitter, and follow the story using the hashtag #AWWales.