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Apprentices' verdicts on working at the Royal Opera House

We speak to three apprentices who have benefited from the scheme which launched in 2007.

By Maliha Korotana (Former Assistant Content Producer)

16 December 2011 at 3.08pm | 5 Comments

We developed an Apprenticeship scheme at the Royal Opera House because we realised that the practical skills required by technical and production departments were not being taught on college courses. We offer training to people looking for a non-traditional way of entering the Arts and since the scheme launched in 2007 every graduate of the programme has found work in the Arts or undertaken further study.

Eight apprentices are employed at the Royal Opera House at any one time; four of these based in Thurrock and four in Covent Garden. We spoke to three of the current crop to get their thoughts on the experience so far:

Michael, our Scenic Carpentry Apprentice combines a college course with guidance from the team:

“No two days are ever the same; you’re constantly learning. The Foreman and other members of the team also help me out with my college work; if I have projects I need to complete, I can bring them in and get advice and practical demonstrations. They’re always very interested in my course and I’m able to juggle both.”

Our Scenic Arts apprentice Louisa had been working on set design for small German theatres for a year before coming to London to study for a BA at Central School of Speech and Drama. While there, she heard about the Apprenticeship scheme and successfully applied:

“You’re always learning at Thurrock. There is so much to discover about architecture, colour mixing, perspective etc. When the supervisors have identified specialist training needs, they’ve brought in freelancers to teach me skills. They’ve also sent me on anatomical drawing course at Central Saint Martins and have been very proactive and supportive about my learning process.”

Louise graduated from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts this summer with a BA in Theatre Production Arts. She completed three weeks of work experience at Thurrock and has been asked to stay on till the New Year as part of the Scenic Arts team:

“While on the work experience placement, we were asked to complete a personal project. The supervisor looked at my portfolio from university and picked out a project she really liked – one where I’d taken a renaissance painting called The Last Breath and transferred it onto cloth. The team all took the time to help me re-create the project. As well as signposting me to books and materials, they gave me practical demonstrations of new techniques I should be using.”

The first apprentice to graduate, Ian Cowie, is one of the many success stories of the scheme. He was awarded Apprentice of the Year at the Building Crafts College and after completing his apprenticeship, was offered a full time role at the Royal Opera House. Other apprentices have gone on to work at Arts organisations such as the Sydney Opera House and the National Theatre. Each graduate is equipped with skills and experience that gives them an excellent footing for gaining employment in the industry.

Further information on applying for an apprenticeship is available on our website.

Are you considering a career in the Arts? Is an apprenticeship an avenue you’ve considered?

By Maliha Korotana (Former Assistant Content Producer)

16 December 2011 at 3.08pm

This article has been categorised Theatre and tagged

This article has 5 comments

  1. conor barry responded on 9 January 2012 at 1:34pm Reply


    I would like to enquire as to whether there may be an apprenticeship in set design becoming available in the very near future and if so could you send me on some details. Any information you send on regarding courses and apprenticeships in this area is gratefully received.

    Many thanks

  2. Great initiative!

  3. Hi
    I have tried going onto your apprenticeship page and it keeps saying page not found are your apprenticeships still available and if so will there be any costume placements coming up any time soon
    thank you

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 2 May 2012 at 9:32am

      Hi Erin,

      We've recently launched our new site and are adding content daily so some pages may not appear yet. We're not currently looking for apprentices but do check back regularly at or follow us on Twitter @RoyalOperaHouse for information as it becomes available.

      - Social Media Manager

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