#6 Provided over 3,000 hours of work experience at The Backstage Centre

,  28 February 2015

Since the Backstage Centre opened we have created more than 3,000 hours of work experience for young people. How do we do it? By engaging every person who wants to hire the spaces in our building with our wider mission to provide opportunities.

What exactly is work experience?

It may seem like a silly question for a phrase that seems to be exactly what it says on the tin, i.e. experiencing what it is like to work.

For most people, ‘work experience’ conjures up images of that week they made you do at school.

I remember my ‘work experience’. I was beyond pleased that I managed to get a place at a touring theatre company. “Don’t worry,” they said, “we won’t ask you to just make tea.” To be fair, I didn’t make any tea, but I did spend the best part of a week sitting by myself in a room rolling posters ready for a mail out for a show I never even saw rehearse.

So I think it’s worth defining what we at The Backstage Centre mean by work experience.

What do we mean by work experience?

Good work experience allows young people to observe their chosen career in action. Great work experience allows them to put their existing skills to use alongside professionals in a real scenario.

'Work experience' conjures up images of that week they made you do at school.

Good work experience gives young people a line on their CV that is easily understandable to potential employers. Great work experience lets that line name-check companies or artists that are familiar to everyone.

Good work experience allows young people to practise the basic mechanics of holding down a job: punctuality, reliability and communication. Great work experience raises the stakes: don’t get the basics right and the show may not, in fact, go on.

So it's probably more accurate to say that, since the Backstage Centre opened, we have created more than 3,000 hours of great work experience for young people.

So how do we do it?

We engage every person who wants to hire the spaces in our building with our wider mission: to provide opportunities to young people. Most of the responses are extremely positive: "That sounds brilliant. I wish there was something like that when I was young." Some are a little nervous: What will it mean for them? Will it be extra work? What will the quality be like?

We have had young people work as crew for bands, films and aerial spectaculars. 

For the more faint-hearted of our clients, we use a sideways approach. Would you like us to arrange crew for your get in? Can we help source production runners with local knowledge? Working to a tight budget? Let us quote to produce your event and help keep costs down.

We have had young people work as crew for bands, films and aerial spectaculars. We have had young people act as runners for The Only Way is Essex, Diversity and a gospel version of the X-factor.

We have placed production arts students alongside make-up artists working on 300 extras, and hospitality students with caterers delivering awards dinners or feeding production crews 24 hours a day. Budding music producers have worked as artist liaison assistants, and aspiring technicians have launched flying spaceships for Fortune 500 companies.

We use the events that we manage ourselves to creative real briefs for students. It might be designing and building an installation for a local government training day or creating a lighting design for a musical showcase.

Ramping up student involvement

Our last four annual conferences have involved student work in some capacity but, since we moved them to the Backstage Centre in 2013, the involvement has ramped right up.

Students rig and set up the conference environment. They help deliver the technical elements including lighting, sound and AV, with older students planning work schedules and supervising their young peers. This year students will also help with catering.

Aspiring technicians have launched flying spaceships for Fortune 500 companies

So what do our clients have to say about the young people doing work experience? 

"Your team of highly skilled, talented and super hardworking guys are a credit to The Backstage Centre."

“This is so seamless that I've forgotten live production arts students are running this thing!”

What do the young people have to say about the experience they get here? You’ll have to come to our annual conference 2015 and ask them yourself!

In the run up to our annual conference and tenth birthday celebration we're looking back at our biggest achievements of the past decade: one a day for ten days.


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