Thoughts on technical apprenticeships

 4 June 2015

Ashley and Sinead took part in technical theatre apprenticeships at the Roundhouse and Sadler's Wells Theatre, as part of the Creative Employment Programme. Follow their journey from recruitment to post-apprenticeship careers.

A unique apprenticeship programme

Fiona Greenhill, Roundhouse head of technical and production

It’s important that more women feel like they can enter this sort of technical industry.

"This apprenticeship programme is unique because it’s in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

"So the apprentices get to work in three different venues – the Roundhouse, Sadler’s Wells and the Peacock – and work on the real range of productions."

Steve Brookes, Roundhouse technical manager

"In terms of career progression, it gives them a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Technical Theatre. It also gives them the practical experience that they need to move forward into a career as a venue technician."

Experiences of apprenticeships

Sinead Peacock, technical apprentice

We’re expected to work off our own back and use intuition... They treat you as a proper employee.

"It’s really great to be working at Sadler’s Wells and the Roundhouse because they’re two really different venues, and obviously have different ways of working, different productions on all the time, and I feel like it gives us a really varied skillset."

Ashley Collins, technical apprentice

"My role here is basically learning the ins and outs of all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of the performance. So I’ll be helping out with lighting, sound, staging, and it’s been pretty cool stuff so far."

Sinead Peacock, technical apprentice

"From the moment I started here, it was like I felt part of the family. You know a lot of effort has gone into making us feel included and it just shows that everybody’s got to muck in, in a good way, but also that we’re supported by so many people here.

"If we ever need someone, ever need a hand with anything, or we ever get a bit lost, then there’s always someone to point us in the right direction.

"But it also means that we’re expected to work off our own back and use intuition sometimes and a bit of common sense. You know they treat you as a proper employee."

Learning on the job

Ashley Collins, technical apprentice

"Over the last four months, I’ve been learning how to rig a theatre up correctly, safely, properly. The best part so far has been being able to understand how to really set up a sound system – not just a normal speaker into a desk, I mean full house, patching, amp rooms... the lot.

"Someone will be like 'I’m gonna connect the NL4 and patch this there and so on' and it’s becoming second nature to me almost. So yeah, I’ve definitely become more confident."

Sinead Peacock, technical apprentice

"Today we’ve been doing a get in for a new show at Sadler’s Wells. I’ve been doing quite a bit of LX today, so rigging bars, focusing lights, general sort of bits and bobs of the stage. It’s quite a bare and minimal sort of rig for the show. Although that means less to do, it also means that the stuff that we do has got to be really, really good.

There’s nothing better than hands-on experience at the end of the day... employers want experience.

"The first four months, you’re almost still settling in. You’re still getting to know where everything is, who everyone is, what everything’s called, but from four months onwards, the steps that you take are quicker or are bigger, so you’ve got that base and you can improve at a quicker speed basically.

"The bits that I really enjoy are the times that you can’t necessarily put your finger on. You know you just have a really good day, or when you’re working in a team and everyone’s just like clockwork."

Ashley Collins, technical apprentice

"They’ve put me here today because it’s mostly sound going on and what they like to do is push me in the area I’m most interested in, which is sound.

"So today, they’ve got me helping out my colleague Luke with the mixing of bands and a little bit of set up here and there, and we’re keeping the ball rolling."

Christian Wallace, Sadler’s Wells technical manager

"The combination of setting up a system, learning all about that, recording it we can do here. But also at the Roundhouse, when he’s actually setting up proper gigs, that’s really gonna help him go on to doing producing and setting up a studio."

Sinead Peacock, technical apprentice

"When you work day to day with people and you’re under pressure and stuff, they are life skills that you learn, something added to just the idea of knowledge and learning how to do something."

Next career steps

Fiona Greenhill, Roundhouse head of technical and production

"After the programme, both Ashley and Sinead have full-time jobs. Sinead applied to be the newest full-time venue technician at the Roundhouse and was successful, and Ashley has a full time job within an AV company."

Views on the technical industry and apprenticeships

Sinead Peacock, technical apprentice

"I got a lot of people sort of telling me, 'oh it’s a really tough industry to get into you know'.

From the moment I started here, I felt part of the family.

"You have to know people and, you know what, it’s not true. If you’ve got the passion and the enthusiasm and a really good sense of humour, then you’ll be fine.

"I think it’s particularly important that more girls... more women feel like they can enter this sort of technical industry without feeling like they’re not gonna do well or anything like that. It’s really welcoming and the work is for everyone."

Ashley Collins, technical apprentice

"I think an apprenticeship is definitely the way forward. It’s a great path into any field you want to get into. There’s nothing better than hands-on experience at the end of the day – you can have your degree on paper, but employers want experience. So if you’ve got an opportunity, I say go for it."