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Apprenticeships – Case Studies

Daniel Arif, Sound and Audio Visual Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
I found it on a google search for jobs as a sound engineer.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
After reading the job description I thought that I had the skills and knowledge necessary to be able to cope with the day-to-day life in the sound department at the ROH. It was also the fact of being able to have the opportunity to work at such a widely recognized company.

Can you describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
Days vary depending on the schedule. Some days will just involve plugging in a couple of speakers for a morning rehearsal while other days involve plugging in speakers, TV screens, microphones and all sorts of varying sound equipment. Some days are really quiet and other days when things like the BAFTAs are on you’re running around all day with very little time to sit down – but every moment is enjoyable.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?
Spending more time at the workplace than at college is good since you don’t miss out on too much at work. As things can change so quickly at the ROH being there as much as you can really pays off as otherwise a simple change in the stage plan can be missed

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
Getting to work with people who share the same interests as you and who are also at the top of their game. They are always willing to share their knowledge with you and you feel that you are learning something all the time you’re here.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
It was so much more than what I expected. I had an idea of what it would be like after having done several sound-based things at school and college, and to a degree it’s the same principle no matter what venue or what show you work on, but the scale of what goes on changes – from doing basic things at college to full blown productions and cinema broadcasts. It can sometimes be a really challenging thing to manage; however, the staff in my department are always willing to help with any troubles I have.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?
Continue with developing my knowledge and understanding of sound engineering. I am in the process of starting my own recording studio and I’ve been using all that I’ve learnt from my apprenticeship to help plan and build it.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?
If you feel that you can match the job description go for it. Opportunities like these don’t come up every day and if it’s the industry you want to get into, take it before someone else does. Being able to say that you’ve worked at the Royal Opera House is an amazing achievement and is really going to look good for future employers.

Sophie O’Connor, Costume Performance Support and Footwear Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
I always knew the Royal Opera House offered apprenticeships from when I was researching different organizations, but I thought they only had apprenticeships in technical theatre. I saw my apprenticeship on the ROH website, I read the job description and thought it sounded perfect.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
I have always really loved watching ballet and had been interested in working in a theatre. I knew I didn’t want to go to university and had been interested in doing an apprenticeship, as I think it is often more effective to learn on the job and gain experience. I loved the idea of working with costumes, but I also loved the idea of working on shows. The footwear element of the apprenticeship also really excited me.

Can you describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
When I am working on a show, I will usually start at noon and prepare everything needed for the show. This can be doing repairs, washing and ironing. We set everything in the dressing rooms and stay for the show to dress performers and do quick changes. There can be long days, especially when there are rehearsals in costumes in the day and shows in the evening. Most days are completely different, especially as there are so many different performances going on, which is very different from most theatres. That’s what makes it so exciting and gives you training like no place else!

How do you find the workplace/college balance?
I go to college once a week. I find the workload easy to keep on top of and enjoy going especially as most of my class is full of apprentices from different companies and theatres, so you learn a lot about their organizations during class discussions. Everyone at work is really helpful with college and will help me get lots of evidence for my units together, making balancing work and college a lot easier!

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
I really love being a part of all the different productions and love working the shows. There is a great energy and it is so enjoyable it rarely feels like work. I really enjoy when I get to work on new productions, as it’s interesting to see the process to get everything ready for opening night. I love starting on a new show: it can be challenging at first, but once you get to a point when you know the show inside and out it is very rewarding. You get to meet so many interesting people, and you gain knowledge from people who have years and years of experience. I have also loved learning about opera, which I knew very little about when I applied.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
It has definitely surpassed my expectations, and as time goes on I only enjoy it more and more.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?
I’m not too sure yet. I really like working in ballet wardrobe at the moment, but I haven’t started work in footwear yet which I am really excited to start. I would also love to travel eventually. At the moment, I just want to learn as much as I can in my time during the apprenticeship and enjoy myself.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?
I would tell them definitely to apply and go for it! It is a really great place to work – everyone is really friendly and supportive and you will definitely learn a lot. I would say to be confident in your interview and read the job description to try to understand what the job entails. You would definitely need to be very flexible, as there are sometimes very long hours so it can be hard to have commitments outside of work. You don’t need to know a whole lot about ballet or opera, you just need to be enthusiastic and ready to learn.

Jack Eaton, Technical Theatre Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
I actually found the advert on Facebook – the technical manager of a venue I volunteered at shared it and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
Coming straight from college it’s incredibly hard to get work. I felt I had more to learn before I could move on to work. I looked at universities but there are so many people graduating and the cost was so high that I didn’t feel like that was any good. When I found this apprenticeship it answered everything. You get to learn on the job for two years at such a fantastic organization and get to learn from some of the best in the business. The scheme the ROH offered was perfect – I get to go through so many departments and learn such a variety of skills, while still being able to focus on where I want to specialize.

Can you describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
I don’t think there is a typical day at the ROH. In the technical department you’re always facing something new and every day you see something you haven’t seen before. One day you could come in and find out you’re building a brand new set which has never been built before and then next you could be working on lighting or sound for the BAFTAs or Olivier Awards! Not only that but the scale of the work blows my mind! The people I get to work with, some of whom have worked in the industry for 20+ years, couldn’t be better. They are always happy to take time and teach me and spend time working with me.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?
The balance is a lot better than I thought it would be. Seeing as I had never worked full-time hours before I thought I would struggle trying to fit everything in but it’s exactly the opposite. My college tutor and apprenticeship managers are always willing to help me and going to college one day a week is excellent.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
There are three things the make it such a great place! One is the opportunity. If you’re willing to put in the work, then you can end up anywhere. When people see you’re a hard worker and want to learn then they will help – you get out what you put in. Two is the people: they couldn’t be nicer and I have learnt so much not just from doing the work but from people explaining what’s going on and why we are doing it. Three has to be getting to work at the Royal Opera House. It is such a prestigious building with classic sets and some of the best operas and ballets in the world!

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Before I started I had this impression that the opera house was a very big corporate work place, almost like a factory but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is a massive building with unlimited opportunities but it’s like a big family. Everyone knows your name, even if you can’t always remember theirs! I knew before I started that I would get to learn and get to do some good jobs but it is so much better. I have already learnt so much more than I thought I would and worked with some of the best in the industry. It is unbelievable.

What would you like to do after your apprenticeship is completed?
The possibilities are endless. With a name like the ROH behind me I could end up anywhere! But in all honesty, I would love to continue working at the ROH. My future aims would be to end up as a technical manager at a theatre, or to have my own production company – but I still have many years of learning before that!

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at the Royal Opera House?
Be honest and be yourself. Just make sure you are open minded and willing to put the work in. But most of all just do it! If you want to apply, then do it! There’s no room for what ifs in life and if you want to work in this industry then apply because I really don’t think there’s anywhere better.

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.

Erin Rosie Hills, Wigs and Makeup Apprenticeship

Where did you see the apprenticeship advertised?
The makeup academy I studied at was made aware of the job and emailed all students about the opportunity.

What made you apply for the apprenticeship?
It was a chance I had to take – I would've been silly not to fill in the application. It takes a small amount of time to fill out an application, and that time could – and did in fact – completely change my life. The opportunities the apprenticeship offers and the first-hand work experience, learning from people who are clearly very good at what they do, is priceless.

Can you describe a ‘typical day’ as an apprentice at the Royal Opera House?
My typical working day starts at 10am, well 9.45am counting the cappuccino I get on the way in – from the cafe on -1, it’s seriously the best cup of coffee you can get anywhere, I'm sure of it!
I get my kit and set up at a free desk in the wig room. I start off by asking either Bridget or Caroline what they would like me to do today, depending on whether I’m working on ballet or opera). There’s always plenty to be getting on within the wig room so I usually have a few wigs or hairpieces or facial hair to be getting on with during the lead-up to shows beginning.
If there is a show on, the wigs that need re-doing from the previous performance are brought up and we all get on with our own characters and help each other with the general wigs for the show too. Then we get to work on the show and they are so much fun!
The wig room has a really lovely atmosphere. It’s normally quite chilled out and everybody is really keen to help me and show me different ways to achieve the look I’m working on if I need it.
It’s a pleasure working upstairs with the whole department. I've always felt 100% comfortable to be able to ask for any help I may need. I usually finish work around 6pm, but of course if there’s a show on my shift can vary to do evening performances.
I’ve been at the Opera House for just over six months and every time my alarm goes off for work I’m straight out of bed. Not many people get to look forward to a days work as much as I do.

How do you find the workplace/college balance?
It’s absolutely fine. I do two and a half days at college and 2 full days at work a week. There’s lots of college work and homework to be done but I keep on top of it and hand it in as soon as it’s set so it doesn’t get too much. I’ve found it really helpful if I’m organized and on top of everything because it means I don’t have to stress about anything. Most of the homework set is really creative, designing head and face charts, mood boards etc, along with writing, so it’s not all bad.

What do you enjoy most about your apprenticeship?
Working on the shows, succeeding and finishing a tricky wig after a few attempts, and getting to know and become part of the team.

Is the apprenticeship what you expected?
It’s much more than I expected. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s certainly exceeded it. I’ve never known what I wanted to do in any job until I trained in this industry last year and now I’m doing the apprenticeship at the ROH. I can’t imagine ever wanting to work in any other industry.

What are your ambitions for the future?
To work in theatre doing exactly what I’m training to do now. Eventually in the long term I want to be the head of a department or designing.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship at The Royal Opera House?
Do it! You have nothing to lose, but you could have everything to gain.

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