My stepping stone into the arts

 15 July 2015

Apprenticeships don't just work for young people, they also help employers design training that is relevant for their business needs. This is my story about how I came to do an apprenticeship at the Southbank Centre and why I believe others should think seriously about this route.

"My apprenticeship was perfect and I will continue to promote the benefits of them to any young person I meet."

I understand the pressure of having to make a huge decision about your future. When I was at sixth form, I felt as though my only two options were university or a dead end job in one of the local businesses.

My school wasn’t very encouraging when it came to giving me other options, and our careers advisor didn’t give me any advice about how I could work in the arts. I was left to figure it out by myself.

Finding an apprenticeship at the Southbank Centre

After lots of researching, I was lucky to find an apprenticeship for a learning and participation assistant at the Southbank Centre. The job would allow me to learn skills for managing and resourcing events, liaising with artists and also important day-to-day office skills.

I got to see how much they love the arts and how hard they work to create jaw-dropping experiences.

This was my stepping stone into the arts industry, so to be doing it in a high-profile organisation was an added bonus.

Looking back, this has been the best decision that I could have made. I have had some amazing experiences working on events, and I’ve done it all while working within a team that inspires me every day. I got to see how much they love the arts and how hard they work to create jaw-dropping experiences for other people to enjoy.

They were all really encouraging about me passing my apprenticeship and gave me lots of help and advice about the arts and the next steps in my career.

So what is an apprenticeship?

Apprentices work alongside trained and established staff, giving them productive training and a great understanding of the business environment they are working in.

Studies show that 80 per cent of companies who invest in apprentices report a significant increase in employee retention and company productivity.

Some benefits of apprenticeships are:

  • earning a salary
  • receiving training
  • learning specific job skills
  • gaining qualifications
  • the potential to get a headstart on your career.

I strongly recommend an apprenticeship to other young people. Not only have I been able to learn transferable skills for a work environment, such as written communications, organisation and team work, but I also gain a qualification.

Depending on the level of apprenticeship, the qualification can be equivalent to five GCSEs, two A-levels or even a degree.

Why employers should take on apprentices

I think one of the main benefits of hiring an apprentice is that you are able to supply them with the skills and qualities that you are looking for in your business. 

You can mould the apprentice to the standards that you require, and this takes away the risk factors when hiring already experienced workers.

It would be great if small towns could provide apprenticeships so young people didn’t need to travel far to achieve their ambitions.

Apprentices are enthusiastic and eager to learn. They can create a new, dynamic atmosphere within the team and the office where they can demonstrate their commitment to the work and to helping others.

From the experience of being an apprentice among five others, I know that we were all very proud to have such an opportunity and strived to build up good working relationships and gain respect from other colleagues.

From a business perspective, an apprenticeship scheme can enhance a company’s reputation, which in turn can mean more business in the industry and the local community.

I think a lot of people underestimate the capability of a young person because of the general stereotypes surrounding young people. If you can stop them clouding your judgement and say "yes" to an apprentice, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Future challenges of apprenticeships

My apprenticeship was perfect and I will continue to promote the benefits of them to any young person I meet.

However, I do understand the negative perceptions of apprenticeships. I think there's a lack of advice and support to help people get into them, and also the salaries can be quite low.

Young people don't know about the opportunities out there in all kinds of job roles and sectors. It seems that living in a city gives you more chances to work in an arts organisation, which is a shame because people from different parts of the country should be able to access a variety of opportunities.

I think apprenticeship salaries are a serious issue that need to be looked at.

I moved to London because I wanted to pursue a career within the arts and there weren’t any opportunities where I was living with my parents in Northamptonshire. It would be great if more theatres, events companies and community centres in small towns were able to provide apprenticeships so that young people didn’t need to travel far or move away to achieve their ambitions.

With salaries, I understand that some feel apprentices should be paid less, but living below the (non-apprentice) National Minimum Wage is unaffordable for those who don't have someone to support them. I was fortunate to be paid more than that, but it was still hard. 

I think apprenticeship salaries are a serious issue that need to be looked at. How are young people that have started a family, or are living by themselves, expected to undertake apprenticeships when they can’t afford to live off the income?

Finding your feet 

An apprenticeship is a great opportunity to find your feet in helping you decide what you want to do or starting you in a career that you’re interested in.

Don’t worry too much if the apprenticeship you’re doing isn’t suitable for you because you’re still gaining experience and a qualification that might useful in the future.

Remember if it’s not the career you want to pursue, you can do more than one apprenticeship until you find the right one. Good luck!