My journey into an apprenticeship

 17 March 2016

Apprenticeships always appealed to me, but unfortunately my school failed to provide me with careers advice that focused on their benefits. This is my story about how I came to choose an apprenticeship and how I feel about the future now I'm on one.

"I’ve surprised myself by how quickly I have started to pick things up"

After completing my first year of college I realised that I wanted to be out working. I’m not very good at retaining information and found myself becoming easily distracted during lessons. I prefer to be actively doing tasks, instead of sitting at a desk listening to my tutors.

My chosen career path has always been event planning, but none of my tutors were ever able to give me the guidance I needed to pursue it. They always told me to focus on hospitality and catering subjects.

However, when doing my own research, I found hundreds of job opportunities and apprenticeships focused on event planning. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Experience to get experience....

I found myself competing against at least 19 other interviewees.

Event planning is the kind of job role that requires you to either have a qualification or at least two years of event experience. I trailed through pages and pages of vacancies, applying for everything and anything I thought would give me the experience I needed.

I went to over 50 interviews and found myself competing against at least 19 other interviewees. I realised after my fifth interview that the creative industries can be very competitive and I desperately needed some work experience in order to set me aside from other people.  

It was disheartening for me because I needed experience to get a job, and I needed a job to gain experience. In the end I settled for any form of voluntary work or work experience.  

Apprenticeship success

When I saw the receptionist apprenticeship advertised for The Backstage Centre on Creative Choices, it sounded like the ideal position for me. I could see the role would teach me all the admin knowledge I’ve lacked, as well as allowing me to get hands-on experience supporting cultural events. I was instantly sold.

I trailed through pages of vacancies, applying for everything and anything I thought would give me the experience.

Apprenticeships in the creative sector seem to be getting more popular, but the opportunities aren’t always there. This form of training and education allows young people to advance their skills, gives the chance to make connections with a range of people, and helps you gain first-hand knowledge about the world of work - all while studying.

My apprenticeship will give me knowledge of local arts activities. It will allow me to understand office and venue processes, such as record keeping, marketing and ticketing, and general health and safety.

Even after just two weeks of being here, I have learnt how to produce invoices, use a switchboard and book rooms into the calendar. By being on reception I can learn the skills I need to do the job, whilst earning my Cultural Venue Operations Level 3 qualification.

It’s nerve-racking going into an apprenticeship. Even though you receive training, you’re never quite sure how much will be expected from you. All my previous jobs were in retail, which means I can deliver great customer service, but lack any kind of admin experience. I felt a lot of pressure, but also knew that with an apprenticeship I will receive all the training I need, and that makes me feel much more at ease.

I’ve surprised myself by how quickly I have started to pick things up, even though I still struggle with many of the queries that come through. I love my job at The Backstage Centre and can’t wait to see what the next 18 months have in store for me. Getting an apprenticeship was the best idea and I know I will learn all the skills I need to progress my career in the future.

Changing attitudes to apprenticeships 

I know that I am much more hands on and learn better when doing a job, and this is the case for many young people. I feel a lot of schools and colleges are unsuccessful in offering apprenticeship advice - perhaps because they feel it looks better on them if their students go to college or university. 

It's my view that schools and colleges should be promoting apprenticeships, especially to those in technical and creative subjects.

When giving students careers talks and advice, they should be doing more to highlight the apprenticeship option. They need to offer information about where to find vacancies and have young people who are, or have been, apprentices coming in to talk to students.

Find out more about The Backstage Centre - the rehearsal and production venue where Sophie is doing her apprenticeship.