V&A Youth Collective / Creative career advice – Interview with Afia Yeboah



April 16, 2021
"Your future career as a climbing frame instead of one ladder” by Kayla Lui der – @kaylaluisikchi

I am a member of the V&A Youth Collective and an emerging Illustrator/Graphic Designer working with various East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) communities in London. As a recent graduate myself, finding accessible creative opportunities and prospective jobs has been a tough challenge, and many may find creative learning difficult during these times of lockdown and museum closures. I have gladly been put in touch with Afia Yeboah, V&A East’s Community Engagement and Outreach Lead, to answer some common questions on creative careers for young people.

About you and V&A East

Hi Afia! Can you introduce yourself and what your day-to-day job is like?

Hi, my name is Afia and I am the Community Engagement and Outreach Lead for V&A East.

My role is focused on helping the museum to build relationships with various communities in East London and to understand the needs and interests of people to make sure that when the new museum and collection and research centre open, they feel local and reflect the local communities. My day-to-day job is full of meetings! I spend a lot of time actively listening to various partners and stakeholders and have to think quickly in terms of what is needed right now to connect with various audiences, but also what will be needed in the future – and to make plans to develop events and activities to keep everyone engaged with what is happening at V&A East.

Which recent young careers event have you organised?

I have just organised a careers week for young people that took place on 4–5 March. These events are for young people in local schools near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in years 9, 10 and 11. They can either sign up to a practical making workshop led by creatives working with the museum, or listen to a careers talk from one of the lead curators working on V&A East, it’s a great opportunity for young people in Newham to hear of the different pathways into the creative industries.

What are future/upcoming opportunities for young people to take part with V&A East?

We are currently programming a number of online events and what we hope to be in-person activities during the summer and early autumn to connect with young people. We’re going to collaborate with local partners like Beyond the Box Consultants and Hoxton Gardenware. These activities will be designed to give young people practical opportunities to engage with making, get creative and hear from experienced professionals in East London, more to come on this soon!

Learning in current times

Do you have any recommendations for accessible online resources for creative learning?

My first recommendation is to sign up to lots of newsletters. It’s the best way to find out about free and accessible workshops and courses in your area of interest. For example, Somerset House Creative Opportunities, Roundhouse (check out Round Your House), Create Jobs, Arts Council News, Creative Access, Get Into Theatre, Google Garage, Run The Check, Screenskills. City Lit Free and Morley College also have subsidised creative courses if you are on a low wage, Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance. There are also some great courses on Udemy and Coursera that you can do for free.

What creative skills do you think are essential for young people to learn or pick up?

Definitely public speaking! This is a skill that is needed across the creative industries, the ability to communicate ideas and present to a variety of people will serve you well regardless of where you work within the creative sector. I would also say skills such as project management, dealing with budgets and time management are also essential. Again, these are all skills that you can use across different creative jobs and are essential to lots of different roles!

With COVID 19 going on and museums being closed, where (on the internet, or anywhere else?) would you find your source of creative inspiration?

I’m a big TikTok fan! I have young children, so in the first lockdown it became part of our routine to watch TikTok together as a family and find funny and life-hack style videos to watch in our moments of down time. I love digital storytelling, it inspires me to get creative, and Instagram is great for that too, there are so many different avenues to explore. I also find creative inspiration from nature, I love green spaces and enjoy walking and I often find that I get inspired when in nature as well as observing my local built environment.

About creative careers

What would your advice be for young people who want to develop a creative career, but don’t know where to start?

Keep your eyes out for programmes, paid internships and opportunities that help young people enter the creative industries, there are a number of them across the UK, Google is your friend! Reach out to people who have done it before you and ask them for help. Create things in your spare time if you can – it’s important to develop any skills that you have and if you don’t have the experience yet sometimes you have to make it yourself! Collaborate and create with your friends – having a network of people who you can bounce ideas off and share thoughts with is super important.

Often creative practice (what you create) and creative careers (what you are employed for) can be two quite separate things— what would you say to that?

I would say that they both are of equal importance and quite a blurred line in reality, I think that future jobs will require the merging of both, so I would encourage anyone to think of creative practice and creative careers of equal importance, like a tool kit to use in a variety of roles.

Are there any creative roles that you think are under-represented? 

In many ways I feel like so many of creative roles are underrepresented, but Material Designer springs to mind, Ella Bulley who worked on the V&A Innovate programme uses everyday materials to create pieces of art, and I think that is really interesting and not necessarily a type of role you would instantly think of when thinking of creative roles in the broad sense. I also think set design, printmaking and production design are also roles that could do with more exposure and representation.

Do you have any last word of advice for emerging creatives out there?

Network, network, network! It’s so important to build relationships with likeminded creatives. Think of your future career as a climbing frame, rather than a ladder, there are a number of directions to take to get to the top. Dare to dream! Sometimes you might not be in a role that is exactly what you want to do, but try to think about your career from a long term perspective and work to build a toolkit with a variety of skills that will make you stand out from the crowd. You might decide to go for a career change halfway through and that’s completely fine, you will have skills that are transferable. Finally think about your mental health and wellbeing, practise good habits in terms of work life balance from the start.

In addition to Afia’s insightful comments and recommendations, there are more and more online free, open-access resources for young people built around online communities: The Dots, D&AD, plus tons of coding tutorials; I’ve personally been really drawn to Intranet Girl’s Blender 3D tutorials on Youtube! The beauty of building a creative career is that there is no right or wrong step— as long as you find a learning process that doesn’t take the fun away and find creative ways to engage with the people around you.

Want to hear more about upcoming events and opportunities for young people at the V&A? Visit the the pages for young people on the V&A website and sign up for the newsletter for regular updates and news.

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