Holly Haste, creative apprentice

 9 March 2015

Holly Haste works as an apprentice for Neon Street where she runs events, oversees projects and researches new musical talent. She told us about what her apprenticeship involves day-to-day, while her employer outlined his experiences of taking on an apprentice.

"My advice to employers is don’t baby your apprentice. Treat them like a member of staff."


I am from Kesgrave in Suffolk and I am 18 years old. 

What job do you do?

I’ve learnt loads about running live events, including the basics of rigging a sound system.

I’m an apprentice at Neon Street in Bury St Edmunds, which runs projects involving the music industry and education. I look after projects and events and run a monthly acoustic night at The Hunter Club called The Living Room. I programme this, which involves me searching out music talent, and I use a lot of social media and sites like YouTube to do so.

I am also helping my boss Phil to organise pre-production for artists we’ll showcase at The Secret Garden Party and the Cambridge Folk Festival. On top of this I assist with selling merchandise on behalf of well-known musicians and bands when they’re on tour.

What did you do before your apprenticeship?

I started my apprenticeship in October 2014 and I’m so glad that I’ve chosen to do this. I’d just completed sixth form and, unlike many of my friends who have gone onto university, I really wanted to get a job. I wanted to work in music but thought I’d have to go to London, so I was delighted to see this opportunity in Suffolk.

What have you learnt in your apprenticeship?

I’ve learnt loads about running live events, including the basics of rigging a sound system. I’m often the only girl working on the technical side at events, so I’ve learnt I’m also working in quite a male-dominated trade.

Grab every opportunity you’re offered during your apprenticeship. This will help you gain more experience and exposure.

Before this apprenticeship I thought the only way I’d get into working with music was if I moved to London. I had a weekend job working in a café when I was at school, which I loved because I enjoyed talking to people. I’d planned to carry on working in the café so I could save enough money to move to London, so I was really lucky to find this apprenticeship on my doorstep.

I’ve also learnt about how to communicate well with musicians who don’t all work in the same way.

What's the best thing about your apprenticeship?

When one of The Living Room sessions has gone well and I can actually pay the acts because I’ve sold enough tickets. Seeing people enjoying themselves at these sessions gives me a great sense of achievement too.

And the worst?

When things go wrong! I panic if we haven’t sold enough tickets for The Living Room, but I’m learning to cope with pressure and the unknown.

Tips for a creative apprenticeship

1. Prepare for your interview

When you fill out an application for a job, research the company you’re applying to and write down questions you want to ask them. This will show them that you’re interested in what they do.

2. Smile

I talk to lots of different people every day in my job so I’ve had to learn to be confident, friendly and approachable, even if I don’t always feel it.

3. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone

Use the phone. It’s important even if you hate doing it!

4. Be open to learning

Grab every opportunity you’re offered during your apprenticeship. This will help you gain more experience and exposure to different situations.

5. Employers: treat apprentices as staff

My advice to employers is don’t baby your apprentice. Treat them like a member of staff and give them space to figure stuff out on their own. Just steer your apprentice as and when they need it. Phil helps me develop my ideas so they are fit for the business, rather than telling me what I should be thinking.

The apprentice employer's view

We also asked Phil Pethybridge, managing director of Neon Street, what he thought about apprenticeships.

What has your experience been?

I hadn’t taken on an apprentice before, but I had taken on a paid intern through the Creative Employment Programme.

Whilst I have a network of 44 people across the country who sell merchandise for me, I work on my own in the office. Employing an apprentice has been a steep learning curve for me that has helped drive my business forwards. Holly has helped free up my time so I can focus more on business development, and it has allowed me to take more risks and try out new ideas. As a small business there’s only so much work you can do through freelancers, but having an apprentice means the decisions I make are now made as part of a two-piece team.

I hope Holly will stay with me when she completes her apprenticeship, but if she wants to move on then I’ll support her to do this. It’s my job to make sure Holly has what she needs to either stay with the company or progress elsewhere.

Would you create more apprenticeships in the future?

I would create more apprenticeship opportunities if the right person came along. I need someone who likes a challenge, isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and is open to learning.  Attitude and behaviours are far more important to me than qualifications.

What does having an apprentice do for your business?

Having an apprentice has meant I can take more risks because I have greater capacity. I wanted an apprentice with new ideas, but also someone who I could mould to respond to business developments.

What advice would you give employers about entry-level jobs?

Don’t take on a young person just to fill a mundane role. Get an apprentice to help grow part of your business that you are unable to give time to.

When you hire an apprentice, take on the person who is right for your business, just like you would any other employee. If you don’t there’s a chance the relationship won’t work - something that can be much harder to work with if there aren’t many of you. 

Employers can help an apprentice learn new skills, but it is much harder to teach attitude. This needs to feel right for your business from the start. Make your apprentice part of the team and let them learn about how your business works.

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week we heard from apprentices employed through the Creative Employment Programme.

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