Gaining skills through work

 12 August 2011

Thinking about applying for a job or work experience in the arts? Cynthia Fordham, Personnel Manager of English National Opera, spoke about the skills and qualities required.

ENO offers a variety of work placements across its departments. (credit: Grant Smith)
ENO offers a variety of work placements across its departments. (credit: Grant Smith)

English National Opera (ENO) has a worldwide reputation for innovative and dynamic performances. Based at the Coliseum in the heart of the London's West End, ENO encompasses a diverse array of departments such as front of house, box office, costume and development.

Whether applying for a job or work experience, an applicant’s first interaction with ENO will be through the Personnel Department. Whilst not involved in the auditioning or casting of performers or musicians for ENO productions, they are crucial to all other recruitment issues, working in “partnership with Administration and Technical departments as required.”

Skills required to work at ENO

"Many roles require relevant industry experience."

Skills required are varied and dependent on the requirements of departments and roles:

  • A job within the costume department, for example, may expect a City & Guilds or equivalent in tailoring or experience within a similar workplace.
  • Many roles “require relevant industry experience and require a degree or equivalent.”
  • Proven ability is essential. “A strong application is likely to be one which clearly demonstrates a good match to the person specification as well as demonstrating the relevant skills required in the job description.”
  • Vitally important is “an enthusiasm for the role and the arts as a whole.”

Opportunities for industry experience

One way of gaining relevant industry experience for a creative organisation is through work experience. ENO offers a variety of placements across administrative, backstage and production departments.

“Where possible we provide 1-2 week’s work experience to school/college students, although availability is limited. We aim to give the student the opportunity to spend days or half days in a variety of different departments in order to give an overview of the organisation.”

ENO are also involved in a number of programmes that provide young unemployed people with relevant work experience.

“ENO Technical department has recently been involved in a work experience scheme being run by the Olympic host boroughs. The scheme provided 8 weeks work experience to a number of 18-24 year olds who are unemployed.”

Similarly, ENO has worked in partnership with The Culture Quarter Programme which places unemployed young people in roles within cultural organisations. So far ENO have been involved in three rounds of intakes of young people through this programme, with placements lasting 6 months.

Applying for roles at the ENO

 “A strong application demonstrates the relevant skills required in the job description.”

Job vacancies at ENO are always advertised both internally and externally. Typically all roles will be advertised on the ENO website with administrative roles also advertised on websites such as The Guardian and artsjobsonline.

More technical roles, such as Props, Lighting or Stage Management, will be advertised within industry specific publications and websites such as The Stage and stagejobspro.

“'We request either an application form or a CV dependent on the type of role. The number of applicants varies very much dependent on the role and department. An administrative role could attract 50-plus applications, whereas the technical roles are likely to receive up to 50 applications.”

Roles are usually advertised for two weeks with the entire recruitment process, including short-listing and interviewing lasting between 4-6 weeks. If you are short-listed for interview:

  • “There would normally be (at least) 2 interviews.
  • “Administrative interviews might include either a skills test or a presentation specific to the role.
  • “Technical roles might involve technical skills tests or a review of an individual’s portfolio of work.”

Finding work experience and training

Work experience at ENO

If you are interested in a work experience placement at ENO, email [email protected] providing your CV and a covering note explaining your availability and the experience you are interested in.

The Culture Quarter Programme

ENO is partnered with The Culture Quarter Programme who place young people in 6 month fixed term contract jobs with structured training. Eligible applicants are 18 to 24 years old and will have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for between 6 and 12 months.

A variety of roles are available in areas such as Arts Administration, Visitor Services and Box Office. The Cultural Quarter Programme is a partnership of arts and cultural organisations that includes amongst others ENO, The National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and V&A Museum.

ENO Opera Works

ENO's training course ENO Opera Works is produced by ENO’s Learning and Participation Department ENO Baylis. Designed for talented singers wishing to embark on or to develop a career in opera, the part-time course enables singers to develop vocal and dramatic skills in a professional environment.

No formal qualifications are required with vocal talent, potential and commitment the main criteria for acceptance onto the course.

ENO Young Singers

ENO Young Singers is a full-time training and performance scheme for talented singers at the beginning of their careers. Participation is by invitation only and enables exceptionally talented UK-trained singers to perform with a major opera company while receiving specialist coaching, support and guidance.


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