Creating Pathways to Employment

Over the past five years the MAC has been engaging with Mencap, Orchardville and Now Group on supporting participants with learning disabilities to gain experience in a working environment. Through our creative learning programmes, we’ve also been able to offer volunteer opportunities to participants engaged with Action Mental Health and PPR (Participation & Practice of Rights), two of our Associate Partners, including those banned from employment as they await asylum. Volunteering has given them the opportunity to make connections to the community here. Find out more about PPR's #LiftTheBan campaign.

For a number of our current volunteers, their goal is to move into paid employment, but their primary goal is building their confidence in a working environment. Ronnie, for example, joined the MAC in 2018 to gain work experience with support from Mencap. Ronnie first gained experience as a volunteer gallery navigator and the following year moved on to paid employment. Ronnie was unable to work for nearly two years due to the pandemic but since he returned to work last year has been very proactive in setting goals and increasing his working hours. As Ronnie has been excelling as part of the MAC team over the past year, he has now been signed off from Mencap employment support services, which is an achievement we’re all really proud of.

What's Next?

The MAC has been developing a pathways to employment pilot programme over the past six months with three participants currently signed up. They will attend the MAC once a week for four weeks receiving training in customer care, gallery navigation, and fire safety. Then they'll spend the next 10 weeks partnering with one of our team in the role of gallery navigator. Each individual will require different support and goals. We aim to work with their support worker and the participant directly to make sure that their work at the MAC is meaningful.

There is a lot we can learn from these partners and we’ve seen how co-design has worked very well with a number of our creative learning programmes. We hope to continue, grow and develop what we currently offer as we learn and get feedback from our current participants. 

Why is this so important to the MAC?

We believe very strongly that the MAC is a space for everyone. We understand how making connections to art and creativity, supports and develops confidence in people, so we are in an excellent position to support those who may live with inequality in their lives.

Paula Kearney, People Strategy & Development Manager at the MAC said, "Engaging directly with the volunteers and hearing what they take away from their time in the galleries or from the shows has really deepened my understanding of how art can transform people's lives. We want to keep bringing art and people together in positive ways."

How is it making a difference?

For a number of our team members there may be barriers in their lives that make things more challenging. Those barriers look different to each individual, and how they might want or need to overcome them can be very different. For some of our volunteers coming to the MAC is exciting, they look forward to getting into the galleries and the shows, but for others it is very challenging. For some volunteers leaving the house is a barrier in itself and they may not engage with many people on a regular basis. For volunteers who are here as asylum seekers, English is not their first language. Often they are pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone so setting goals and working towards them is key.

We really listen to what our team is telling us and take onboard all the feedback we get and try our best to adapt the volunteer experience, so it has as few barriers as possible.

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Watch this short video about the journey of two of our colleagues, Gregor and Ronnie.