Why we take on apprentices – and you should too

 24 November 2015

Yes, creative apprenticeships help young people succeed in their careers, but they also help employers grow their organisations. Emma Hopkins and Hasina Allen from Southbank Centre make the case for developing apprenticeship programmes in the arts.

"At Southbank Centre we recognise the huge benefit that our apprenticeship programme has added" (Image (c) Morley von Sternberg)

Southbank Centre maintains its vibrant cultural presence and thriving arts programme through a commitment to working with a diverse talent pool within the artistic community. This not only includes established talent, but also young, new and emerging talent.

It makes sense therefore that, if we are championing young talent externally to millions of our visitors, we also champion young talent internally within our workforce.

We achieve this via our apprenticeship programme, which has become an essential part of our wider mission to ensure that art is for everyone.

Apprentices can often come to organisations with fresh ideas and approaches, which challenge established ways of working. That is a good thing!

Young people in particular can help with the reach and relevance of artistic and cultural events in today's world, which are especially important here at Southbank Centre.

From apprentices to professionals

Our apprentices grow their skills working side by side with our employees across four different departments. By learning on-the-job, they become experts at what they do, and the tacit knowledge gained through this organic process feeds back into their work with us.

Young people can help with the reach and relevance of artistic and cultural events in today's world.

This benefit can better enable any arts organisation to grow and thrive. And looking at the bigger picture, even if your apprentice moves onto another job within the wider cultural sector, they are at least better informed in their career choices with realistic expectations of the requirements of the job and therefore are more likely to succeed.

Maybe you could be the lucky organisation hiring an experienced professional who once started out as an apprentice. 

Communicating the benefits

Developing an apprenticeship programme can seem a daunting task at first. It’s important to think through any challenges you might face within your organisation and have a plan to overcome these.

With Southbank Centre being a fast-paced environment delivering a programme of popular festivals, time has always been a luxury. The greatest time investment needs to come from the managers who are working with the apprentices day-to-day, so it is important to get them on board from the outset.

Communicating the benefits to those managers is key. 83 per cent of our managers who took part in the 2013/14 scheme felt that apprentices were a necessary resource. Furthermore, some felt that line-managing apprentices gave them an opportunity to develop their own management skills.

Tackling youth unemployment

Southbank Centre also prides itself on being a responsible employer. We all have a social responsibility to tackle current issues such as youth unemployment by increasing the number of routes into cultural workforces.

You could be the lucky organisation hiring an experienced professional who once started out as an apprentice.

We recognise the huge benefit that our apprenticeship programme has added to our organisation, as well as witnessing the immense difference it has made to the personal and career development of the participants.

The apprentice not only gains a recognised and relevant qualification, but also real-life skills and experience that are perfectly suited to needs of the industry.

We intend to continue advocating the benefits of creative apprenticeships, both for employers and young people, and will grow our own apprenticeship programme. 


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