The National Trust is well known for keeping our heritage in good shape through the preservation of important buildings and environments – from stately homes to coastal paths. Less well known is that it uses an innovative approach to improving diversity in the workplace.

The ‘Passport to your Future’ programme is a pioneering scheme to introduce greater diversity to the workforce and help to break down some of the barriers traditionally faced by some people when looking for a job.

Applications are sought from anyone with a disability, a lack of formal qualifications, who has been long-term unemployed or is from an under-represented ethnic minority group.

The roles on offer are designed for those who may not have formal qualifications or may have faced challenges when trying to move into the workplace.

The programme provides the chance to work with Trust staff and volunteers and to learn technical and practical skills that will lead to a ‘heritage passport’. This passport provides an impressive portfolio demonstrating the skills gained during the placement that will help those completing the scheme to continue their careers in heritage or conservation work.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) the ‘Passport’ scheme offers one-year paid training. The next intake of trainees begin their placements in May.

The scheme is now in its fourth year with each year covering a different area: Houses and Collections, Visitor Experience, and Historic Gardens and Parks.

Cyril was born in West Africa and lost much of his sight while he was a young boy, and it is gradually deteriorating. Nevertheless the ‘Passport’ scheme has had a really positive set of benefits for Cyril, as he explains:

This Passport project has taught me how to communicate with a purpose. Working on Visitor experience at (medieval moated manor house,) Ightham Mote, I have had to work on what was a constantly improving skill – interpersonal communication, whether to staff or customers. I am not, nor have I ever been, a man of many words, but this particular project has helped me to harness that particular skill and by doing so has improved my work and social experiences in and out of the work place.

It has also given me a different perspective on English history and culture. I was always a lover of interesting facts, historical trivia and just learning about a place, so coming to work at Ightham was a dream come true. My training on this project not only taught me interesting things about how people lived during different periods of history, but taught me just how to relate what I have learned as well. Being on National Trust properties was a new and wonderful experience for me; the atmosphere – transporting me back to different historical periods. I am now more interested in learning.

The reception at Ightham when I went to train and work there was indeed a very friendly, engaging one. Right away I was accepted into the fold and made to feel as if I had been there a long time with them. I felt part of the team already and I got to work immediately, pitching in with ideas, aiming to improve the visitor experience all the time, which was indeed my role on the property. In the past year I’ve improved on communication, both verbal and written, how to learn and apply statutory rules concerning my place of work, the importance of proper presentation and how to play a role in a strong team. These are all valuable things to learn for any future career prospects, and it was my privilege to learn them on the Passport to Your Future Project