The apprentice perspective

,  16 November 2018

Partnership Manager Sandra Dartnell recently video interviewed Digital Marketing Apprentice, James Parrott. She talks about how their interview can show employers the potential of hiring an apprentice, and also allowed James to put his video production skills to work.

Watch Sandra's interview with Digital Apprentice, James Parrott. If you know an apprentice worthy of an award take a look at the Creative & Cultural Skills Awards 2019 - nominations are open! 

I first met James Parrott on stage at the Preston Guildhall when I was presenting him with his award for Most Inspiring Creative Apprentice at The North West Cultural Education Awards 2018. The awards are organised by Curious Minds the Bridge Organisation in the North West, and Creative & Cultural Skills was the sponsor of the category. 

I decided to interview James because I was struck with how at ease, warm and professional he was when he was interviewed by the compere. I was particularly interested in his desire to pursue a creative role at - a non-creative and cultural employer

Listening to apprentices

Listening to the experiences and perspectives of the apprentices who spoke in a panel at the Creative & Cultural Skills National Conference 2018, was a highlight for me. 

I wanted to talk to James so that I could understand his experience of his apprenticeship

I wanted to talk to James so that I could understand his experience of his apprenticeship. I also felt that what he had to say could have an impact on my work with employers in my region the North West, as it’s a perspective they don’t often get to hear.

Putting skills into practice

I asked Curious Minds for James' permission to contact him. Originally, I asked him to write about his apprenticeship experience, but James put forward the idea of a video interview.

He knew he had the skills to pull off both the videography and being an interviewee, and that his manger would enable him to make it happen. He was right on all counts. 

Understanding apprentices

It's easy to misunderstand the nature of an apprenticeship.

They are periods of learning on the job whereby the individual is stretched in a role to become occupationally competent by the end of the apprenticeship.

They are a worker from day one, and a learner from day one

They are a worker from day one, and a learner from day one. They will ask questions. They will need guidance. They will sometimes be off site for elements of the learning.

Those can be positive things! Through explaining how things are, new ideas and patterns can emerge about how things could be. From days out of the workplace, with other learners, new ideas can filter in. 

Myth busting

Some employers have negative preconceptions about apprenticeships, but adding the human element to the conversation can help.

Culture change is a barrier that I face in my work and those barriers are most easily broken down by evidence and relatable stories.

For some employers, apprenticeships are scary. They introduce some unknowns - working with training providers for one - but also having a new kind of worker. In the creative industries organisations can be very small, or big with small teams, and people wonder how they will manage the difference. 

Risks and opportunities

Some employers have never had any contact with apprentices. It's not as easy to imagine the person they are considering adding to their organisation, and the impact which that addition might have on the rest of the team, as it is with other hiring situations. 

It's much easier to catastrophise about what the outcome of taking a new approach might be. They worry that it will be a nightmare, soak up resource; that the apprentice will need to learn everything from scratch and not fit in.

This person could be a breath of fresh air, lighten the load, introduce new skills

They don’t think about the opportunities. That this person could be a breath of fresh air, lighten the load, introduce new skills and be capable of changing organisational culture for the better.

They also fail to consider that apprentice might come from within the existing team. An apprentice can be anyone

A professional experience

The day I went to in Manchester to make a video with James he was utterly professional. He was my host and had everything prepared for the shoot. He ran all the quality checks across audio, light, framing, and spot checked the work during and after.

He made me feel totally comfortable as an interviewer, allowing time for us to get things right, but wasting none. He had prepared considered responses to the interview questions I had shared with him.

He listened to the key points that I flagged after the shoot and worked them into his edit and final production. He worked with me to finalise the production and was clear and on time. He's a brilliant representative of his own skills and ambitions, and the industry and organisation he's working for. 

Finding the right fit

He speaks really favourably about his manager and mentor, Grant. Throughout the whole process I never met Grant, which speaks volumes about the freedom James has been given to put his skills to use, though he is also supported when he needs more development. 

Grant put James forward for his award, and that step was suggested by the training provider Juice Academy

It's up to the organisation to find a candidate who they feel is going to be a great fit as a worker and a learner. Good training providers will work with employers to enable that match, and they will continue to work with the apprentice and the employer throughout the stretch of learning. It's important for the apprentice to participate in that relationship and raise gaps so they can be solved.

To read more about James' work, take a look at the blog post he wrote for on Growth Mindset for the Juice Academy. And if you've been inspired to employ an apprentice, we've got lots of information on the Creative & Cultural Skills website to help you learn more about them. 

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