MJ article: creative apprenticeships

“I’d heard of apprenticeships, but not like this”, said Bessie. Last year she completed a paid technical theatre apprenticeship with the Park Theatre in Islington – winner that year of The Stage’s Award for ‘Fringe Theatre of the Year’. It was the perfect opportunity to learn the foundations of her craft in a renowned venue.

Since 2013, Islington Council has worked with local arts organisations to create 26, six to twelve month paid creative apprenticeships and internships like Bessie’s. These include working with production teams to oversee the casting, rehearsing, and production of theatre shows; and supporting global tours of internationally-known dance companies. This year the Almeida Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, and many others have all offered more paid apprenticeships to fourteen local 16-24-year-olds. By ensuring these opportunities are paid, we have been able to open up a sector to less well-off local young people who often missed out as they didn’t have access to the networks needed to gain such opportunities or didn’t have the ability to work for free.


I believe we owe it to our young people to help them get the careers they deserve in fields they are passionate about. These paid apprenticeships are a great opportunity for them to get a first step into work in creative industries. For Bessie, it gave her confidence, valuable experience, and a phone full of useful business contacts in the heart of the West End.

The story behind success stories like Bessie’s is that of our council coming together with local creative and cultural organisations to create exciting opportunities that upend common stereotypes about apprenticeships. Apprenticeships need to always be of good quality – seen on a par with other qualifications and educational routes. They need to be stimulating, dynamic, and provide opportunities for real progression. We managed to build on existing strong relationships with local theatres and organisations, and create paid apprenticeships that work for everyone.

The creative industries grew at twice the rate of any section of the British economy in 2014; contributing £84 billion to the economy. These industries also saw jobs growth of 9 per cent from 2013-2014, which was double that of the rest of the economy. We need to be training young people for the jobs of the future and in areas where growth can be supported by partnerships with local authorities. By offering young people paid and relevant opportunities in a sector that is growing, we are making this growth work for the next generation.

For Bessie, that’s exactly what her creative apprenticeship did. After completing her apprenticeship with Park Theatre, she worked as an assistant stage manager for the theatre and has since got a job as stage manager for a small production company in a pub theatre. More importantly, it helped to fuel her passion and aspiration to work in theatre. Reflecting on her first pay check as an apprentice, Bessie said: ‘I just got paid for doing something that didn’t feel like work!’ It’s just so rewarding.” Surely that’s something we want for all our young people.

Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council

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