Culture Syndicates provide specialist advice and support to heritage and arts organisations. Our vision is a thriving cultural sector in which every organisation has support to build and achieve good business, workforce and community engagement models.
Is there a different entry point for employees with a postgraduate degree?
No, we base recruitment on potential, experience and competency as a way of championing best practice in an industry that suffers from poor workforce diversity due to over-reliance on qualifications.
What are the benefits to you in hiring employees with a Masters or PhD?
Candidates with higher qualifications can demonstrate a higher level of theoretical knowledge, but this can also be gained through experience.
Do you encounter any challenges with employees with a Masters or PhD?
Candidates who have focused on education rather than experience can suffer from lack of workplace experience. For example, they may be less able to demonstrate skills during the recruitment process and take longer to train in working independently. This is not always the case and depends on a variety of factors, including how much work experience they have gained, both in the industry and outside of the industry, their confidence and ability to work autonomously.
What skills, knowledge and expertise do you look for in applicants with a Masters or PhD?
We look for the ability to apply knowledge to a practical situation – candidates are expected to have a similar level of competency as candidates without the same qualifications. We are wary of candidates who have high levels of education with little experience, as our work requires a different approach (for example, the ability to write in report language rather than essay style).
We use a project management scenario test at interview to test logical thinking and ability to manage a team, as well as traditional interviews and, at entry level, an assessment centre model to spot potential and team skills rather than experience. We use these methods because our work is project based, interacting with clients and adapting to a wide range of different heritage and arts consultancy tasks.
Thinking about the direction your organisation is heading in and changes in the wider sector, how do you envisage your hiring strategy changing in the next 10 years? What skills, knowledge and expertise will you be looking for in new employees/postgraduates?
The heritage and arts industry needs to increase workforce diversity and this is becoming an increasing expectation from funders on organisations. As a company that exists to challenge poor practice in the industry, Culture Syndicates want to continue developing our inclusive recruitment practices to demonstrate that organisations can benefit from using recruitment as a method of engaging the local community, increasing permeability between audiences and workforce so that arts organisations better reflect the diversity of society.
In terms of skills, we will continue to assess candidates on practical ability and working knowledge rather than theoretical knowledge. Having theoretical knowledge is useful but this needs to enhance candidates’ abilities and experience. Without the ability to, for example, manage information on Excel, act entrepreneurially, think logically and calmly and talk confidently to clients and your team, a candidate would struggle to work as one of our Project Managers, regardless of their theoretical knowledge and academic qualifications.
All of our senior team have Masters qualifications as they have used the educational system to gain a deep understanding of the industry and create strong networks. The aspect they have in common is a thirst for information and an innovative approach (for example, seeking to grow their contacts and keeping abreast of industry reports). This is symptomatic of poor workforce development in the wider industry so we want to see this change – gaining qualifications should be a development option rather than a necessity. As a Director, I want to see our workforce support opportunities for sector entrants, so that our future senior team will be a diverse mixture of people, from different educational, career and cultural backgrounds.
Thank you to Hollie Davison, Resilience Syndicate Project Manager for this case study.