Working in creative internships and apprenticeships
DanceEast, based at the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich, is part of the Suffolk County Council Creative Employment Programme consortium. We met up with two apprentices and a marketing officer – who started as a paid intern – to talk about their experiences in the workplace so far.
Charlotte Prodger was 21 when she started her six-month internship in November 2013. She has since continued to work with the organisation.
In my interview I suggested improvements to DanceEast’s social media presence.
“I started as a marketing assistant intern, and at the end of my internship I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time position. My job now is marketing and communications officer.”
Creative team apprentice Lizzie Hawes was 21 when she started her year-long apprenticeship, while communications and development apprentice Esther Howard was 16. All three are from Ipswich.
How did you get started?
As an Ipswich resident who is passionate about dance, and with a good degree in Business, Charlotte felt she was always heading this way but didn’t take anything for granted.
“I made sure I was fully prepared for my interview and brought a large portfolio of the work I had done when I was president of the Dance Society at uni. I also took the opportunity to suggest improvements that I could make to DanceEast’s social media presence and highlighted the importance of digital communications.”
Lizzie was no stranger to DanceEast, having been a member of Suffolk Youth Dance. She had also volunteered as a tutor assistant and worked on ‘Family Fun days’.
“I knew a lot of people at DanceEast and had always put myself forward for things, which I think helped. Prior to this opportunity I had been working for an electrical mechanical engineering company in the day and waitressing in the evenings. I had been looking for an opportunity like this for ages.”
“I hated school and I knew I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted a full-time job and to start earning money doing something I loved. I didn’t know a lot about DanceEast before and I wasn’t sure what was available, so I sent an email to the head of creative programmes about me and about what I wanted to do."
This approach obviously worked well as Esther was then invited to an interview for the apprenticeship position.
“The interview was scary. I had never been interviewed before and there were other people there who were older and obviously more experienced. I took a CV and character references and told them just how keen I was to be working within the business side of dance. I felt it was important for me to become well-rounded in the industry, not just practically. Dance is my life.”
What do you do at work?
“As marketing and communications officer my job includes writing press releases, writing copy for the website, doing campaign plans and budget responsibility.
"I have some line management responsibility for Esther, which is really exciting, and I have also ensured that social media is now much more integrated within the organisation, including introducing DanceEast to Instagram and YouTube. My job is not so different from my internship, but with much more responsibility.”
I am business-minded and have a passion for dance and this job allows me to bring the two together.
“I work within a small creative team on various community-based and outreach projects such as U.Dance and the Spring Showcase. My job includes lots of admin such as emailing participants, sourcing costumes for shows, filming, documentation and evaluation of projects, plus working with people of all ages. I do lots of different things and I am always looking forward to the next project."
“Among other things I write press releases, design artwork for flyers, think of creative PR ideas, and research projects within the development side of things. I am also responsible for Twitter for Danceats – the café based in Jerwood House – as well as the press cuttings folder and keeping the building tidy."
What have you got out of the internship/apprenticeship?
“I know I want to work in the arts and wouldn’t suit a corporate environment. You have to be a bit savvy and offer practical solutions for the company for the future. The internship led to my full-time job.
"The next thing I want to do is progress further with DanceEast or within a similar organisation."
“It’s an environment where no two days are the same. I am constantly dealing with people, so it’s always different and there can be no generic answers. It can be quite time-consuming and stressful, but this job is more me as a person.
"I would like to remain in the arts and stay creative. Uni is an option, but I would prefer to keep working and moving forward."
“I have gained so much experience and it is exciting to be learning more about the business. It’s nice to be ‘the baby’ in the organisation and to see how everyone else got here. It’s also nice to be surrounded by other young people.
"I want to be in a job in the arts. I would rather be doing something I like to do.”
Whilst at DanceEast, Esther has also had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant with Avant Garde Dance, an exciting Hip Hop contemporary company. Through sheer tenacity and good networking skills she has now been invited to join their youth group and she travels to London every Saturday to train with them.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
“I am business-minded and have a passion for dance and this job allows me to bring the two together. The dynamic of the organisation has really changed since I started – now there are loads of young people and the direction it's going has changed. Everyone is passionate and there is a cool, inspirational vibe.
“The worst thing is having to work on a Friday!”
Everyone is passionate and there is a cool, inspirational vibe.
“I really like working with people, talking to people and being ‘a presence’ for the organisation. I enjoy being given the space to think creatively, for example I have come up with an innovative way to do evaluation which draws on the Gavin King exhibition ‘1,000 faces’ in the Jerwood DanceHouse. Evaluation should be fun, accessible and from your own experience.
“In terms of the worst, I find the apprenticeship qualification can take up a lot of time when I am trying to do my job. I would like the training to be more specific to my needs."
“I wake up in the morning wanting to go to work and I know that so many people my age are not enjoying what they do.
"But I agree with Lizzie in that the apprenticeship qualification feels like it makes a massive impact on the time I have to do my job.”
Advice for a creative career
Esther, Lizzie and Charlotte gave five main tips:
1. Be passionate
You must be passionate about the arts and find a way of showing that. Have it and show it. Qualifications are important, but passion is the main thing.
2. Get experience
Get experience wherever you can. Volunteer and always put yourself forward to show that you are keen and interested.
3. Do your research
Know a lot about the organisation you are applying to.
4. Make yourself visible
Keep within an organisation's peripheral vision at all times and put yourself out there.
5. Make use of your skills
Don’t ever disregard other jobs you have done, even if they are not in the arts. If you are creative that will feed into whatever you are doing and work in your favour. All of my previous jobs lend something to what I do now. Think outside of the box and be creative and innovative.
To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week we're hearing from apprentices employed through the Creative Employment Programme.