I finally reached the head of the queue in the coffee shop. A smiling barista apologised for the delay, and asked me what I wanted. I then noticed the dreaded “Trainee” badge proudly pinned to their fresh new shirt. Then it was all clear: the light bulb moment. That was why my wait had been extended by a minute or so, and that was why I was suddenly worried that my coffee wouldn’t be up to scratch.
Would it be cold? Would it be too strong? Too weak? The wrong colour? Perhaps it wouldn’t be coffee at all but, perish the thought, Tea. I watched as the trainee barista carefully made my coffee, and was ready to intervene should the process differ from what I’d normally expect. She really concentrated, and seemed to not only enjoy making the coffee but also made you feel appreciated as a patient customer.
The coffee arrived in pretty good shape, in pretty good time, steaming hot in a sleeved cup ready to go.
I tasted it, ready to be not satisfied as I practised my mask of mortification. Enjoy it? Well, why would I? It was made by a trainee. She must have got something wrong, surely? Yes she must have or she wouldn’t have been a trainee, would she? But it was a perfect cup of coffee.
In fact it was probably better than I’d previously bought from the coffee shop. You know the one, every High Street has one: that little independent that was never quite trendy enough but would love to be.
I got to thinking that sometimes trainees try harder, and often bring a different quality and fresh ideas to what they’re doing. Maybe they aren’t going through the motions, doing the required but no more as some more experienced staff might.
We often work with work placement kids in our film production company. And much like the coffee barista they are very attentive, focused, keen to learn, and always trying to do the best job possible. They often bring freshness to tasks that I’ve done numerous times, and on occasion they find a better and more efficient way of doing them.
Last year we were commissioned by the Lowewood Museum to film a “Takeover Day”, which is when kids take over the running of a museum for the day. It’s run by Kids in Museums and takes place in museums and galleries in the United Kingdom. We spent the day in the fantastic museum filming the kids running the museum where their work included front of house, tours, social media and interacting with the public, which can be seen in Takeover Day at Lowewood Museum.
After working with the kids, Museum’s Officer Carly Hearn said: “Maybe we’ll be running the museum a bit differently in the future. I think we can learn a lot from young people about how to make our museums vibrant places for more people to visit.”
What was fascinating was seeing the energy and spark that these kids applied to all the tasks. They found a way of working that utilized their passion, harnessed their energy, and made a virtue of their inexperience.
It’s that energy; it’s that freshness that trainees, interns, work placements or just keen new members of staff bring to a company, gallery, museum, production… It doesn’t matter whether it’s coffee, film production, construction, museums, galleries, or banking there’s always something new to add. Those ‘somethings’ that someone’s been doing like that for years without thinking about. That ‘something’ that may not be that important but when added together with all the other ‘somethings’ can make all the difference.
Maybe the next time you buy a coffee, or visit a museum and you see the dreaded word trainee you might wonder what difference they might bring to your coffee or what value to your museum visit. Of course we all had to learn, pick up new skills, and improve on our old ones so let’s all be a tad more understanding of others doing the same. Perhaps, it’s worth remembering that we all have to start somewhere and we don’t all start from the same place.
Naturally I’m sure to get stuck behind a learner driver now and will have only myself to blame for tempting such fates.