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Apprenticeships – Case Studies

Alexander Dillon-Mcqueen, Technical Theatre Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?

I saw the apprenticeship at TheatreCraft.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?

I never wanted to go university and when I went to TheatreCraft and saw the apprenticeship I thought this is the one for me.

Describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?

There isn’t a typical day at the Royal Opera House. Every day is different.  That’s the fun thing about working here. Coming into work at 8am, you can be running two shows that day and another you will be doing the get out of another show and putting in a new show.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?

At first it was tricky because I was the first year when we don’t have to go into college, we do it online and we upload the work online and the tutor will mark it and give you feedback. We had reviews roughly every 8 weeks so we had an idea what we need to do and what we need to work on. The managers are every flexible, you let them know when and where you going to do work and they are fine with that.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?

I enjoy everything about the apprenticeship. From learning different things you won’t learn anywhere else to just learning basic health and safety.  When you help build a set and you see the set on stage in front of thousands of people, you feel proud and part of a team. The staff are friendly and you can ask them any question and they will answer.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

The apprenticeship is a hundred times better than I imagined.  I thought you'd be watched and followed by someone everywhere you go but – no! You are left alone to do things and if you mess it up or get it wrong, you will have to it again, which I like because learning from your mistakes is the way to get better.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?

After my apprenticeship, I would like to work on a cruise ship as a stage manager or production manager or stay at the Royal Opera House and join the stage management department.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at The Royal Opera House?

APPLY! This is the best decision I have made in my life. If you want to learn and work at the same time then is the place. Just make sure you are hardworking and have the passion about technical theatre.

Sophie Scott Costume (Thurrock), Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?

I first saw about the apprenticeship scheme on a promotion stand at the Orsett Show when I was 13.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?

I have danced since I was very small and always loved the costumes part of doing a show. I was also very interested in sewing and so costume seemed like a perfect route for me to take. After seeing this apprenticeship advertised, I knew I wanted it, so I started doing work in theatres doing dressing and working in wardrobe which just confirmed that it was the career I wanted.

Describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?

To be honest, there is no typical day. There can be a typical day for a few weeks at a time due to working on chorus costumes being repetitive. However, when there is a show change over and shows go on stage you are then onto something new again. 

How do you find the workplace/college balance?

I have two days at college which I really enjoy, which was quite the surprise to me as I was never a fan of college. The days at college mean I get a break from the work environment and get a chance to talk to other people who are interested in theatre and fashion. I get the chance to improve my skills and ask the questions that I may not be able to ask whilst working due it being busy for other employees.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?

I most enjoy going to see the general rehearsals (the final dress rehearsal at the Royal Opera House). That’s when I get to see the work I have done up on stage for the first time. It makes all the hours and corrections and difficulties worth it and really makes you appreciate what you do. 

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

I wasn’t sure what to expect. You have to be prepared to be thrown into the deep end quickly as it can be quite overwhelming, the first week especially. I definitely didn’t expect to be making a full tutu just a few weeks into the apprenticeship.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?

Although I love working in theatre and have done for a few years, I also really want to go into film. According to other costume workers, it's best to do that whilst your young, I’d also like to work on TV shows as that seems like a whole new pace.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?

Just go for it! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have heard someone say that they would love to go for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House but have held back because of how competitive it all seems and how hard it looks to get. However, someone has to get it and it won’t be you if you don’t apply for it. All you really need is the passion for your area and a little experience to show your passion in practice.

Romy Loughman, Scenic Art Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?

I saw the apprenticeship scheme advertised on the Royal Opera House website, where I signed onto the mailing list for email alerts about when the scenic art application was open.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?

After finishing a two-year art and design course, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the creative industry. However, I didn't want to go to university and instead choose to look for alternative routes to employment. I have always had an interested in art and theatre and felt that scenic art was a fantastic job combining the two subjects. What's amazing about the apprenticeship scheme is you get to learn on the job, whilst having the opportunity to work with people who are at the height of their profession in an established company such as the Royal Opera House.

Describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?

There is no such thing as a typical day when working at the Royal Opera House! Due to the nature of the job you are constantly working on different productions all the time and as a result, it brings its own unique challenges and rewards.

One day you could be involved helping produce one of the cloths for The Nutcracker and the next you could be helping to create the right wood finish for the opera Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg. Alongside working on the sets in the workshop you also get the opportunity to expand your knowledge and understanding of the techniques associated with scenic art in the form of personal projects and attending sessions at RADA.

I believe the variety of tasks that are set is what makes working at the ROH so exciting! Furthermore, you are gaining the experience and skills needed to lead onto other opportunities in this industry.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?

I spend the majority of my time in the scenic workshop at the high house production park, but now and again I go to RADA where I get training in the specific skills needed to become a scenic artist. For example, tromp l'oeil, technical drawing and spray painting. I really enjoy the balance between attending RADA and working in Purfleet as both are different environments and each have their own challenges and rewards.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?

That is a really hard question as there are so many amazing elements of the apprenticeship scheme! The opportunity to work in an environment which, is practical and artistic, collaborating with a variety of people from different departments and working on a range of different productions –are just some things that have made my time working at the ROH a joy. There is a great energy in the workshops and I've found it fascinating to learn how plans are brought to reality – and the work that is involved in achieving the designer's vision. There is definitely a satisfaction of seeing
your hard work on stage in front of an audience – it makes you feel proud!

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?

It is so much more than I expected– the days just keep on getting better and better! Applying for this apprenticeship is definitely one of the best decisions of my life!

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?

I would definitely like to keep training to become a scenic artist. I hope to gain as much experience as I possibly can be it working in either theatre, film or television.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?

If you believe the job description is right for you, then just apply as you have nothing to lose!

Leslie Hamilton, Scenic Metal Work Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
I was out of work and my CSCS card had expired so I started doing some work experience at my local job centre where I saw a poster for the apprenticeship.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
I’m getting older and I’ve not really got any full qualifications so that was the main pull for me. It also helped that I’ve always had an interest in welding and how it works.

Can you escribe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
I’ll arrive in the morning and get changed. I’ll then gather up my PPE and report to my manager, who will assign me a task. This could involve making lugs, working off a drawing, assisting one of the senior workers, putting deliveries away or cutting lengths of material.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?
I find there’s a very good balance. I attend Prospects College in Basildon every Friday which breaks the week up nicely.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
I most enjoy the feeling I get seeing one of the sets completed, knowing I played a part in making it.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
Pretty much. I anticipated that welding itself would be a bit easier but I now realize there’s a fine technique to it.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?
I would like to remain within the scenery building field but ultimately would love to end up doing some underwater welding at some point in my career.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?
At the end of the day you haven’t got anything to lose. It takes less than half an hour to complete the application and this could be the start of a bright future.

Apprenticeships at the Royal Opera House are generously supported by the Derek Butler Trust, Jasper Conran OBE, the Gordon Foundation and Thurrock Borough Council.