A school leaver’s choice used to be go to university or get a job. Now they can do both. In the creative industries, new Higher Level Apprenticeships equivalent to degrees – and even Masters – are now seen by school leavers and businesses alike as a real alternative to a traditional university course.

Gareth Reid
Gareth Reid

Gareth Reid is currently in the second year of a Higher Apprenticeship in Broadcast Technology at BBC Salford, a programme which incorporates a BEng degree in Broadcast Engineering. “I get to work on real projects,” says Gareth, who turned down a place on a five-year Masters degree to take the role. “I'm out actually doing the job and meeting new people who are working in the sector.”

Talent hungry businesses are increasingly more open to taking on apprentices in previously graduate-dominated entry-level roles. Alex Anderson, Talent Manager at Manchester-based digital agency Code Computerlove, believes it’s the way to help solve the skills shortage in digital industries. “Technology is changing fast,” she says. “We wanted a programme that would teach newcomers to adapt to those changes really quickly — which this does perfectly.”

Matt Claffey, apprentice in Interactive Design and Development at Alex’s company, knew hands-on training was too good to miss: “I knew that in one year I could learn things that might take me three years at university. And because I’m earning, there isn’t the financial pressure.”


Apprentices work on a live project at Real SFX
“In some cases, the progress is startling. I have seen an art department apprentice go from leaving school to being ready to art direct a block of a continuing drama within the year.” Tom Morrey, Talent Manager employing Level 3 apprentices in Drama at BBC Cymru.

“More and more employers recognise the value of apprenticeships: it’s now a key route into creative companies” says Sue Jeffries, Cyfle, of the Level 3 Creative and Digital Media Apprenticeship, equivalent to standard A-levels.

Cyfle is the latest provider (and the first in Wales) to be awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for their apprenticeship delivery. The Tick is the creative industries’ outstanding quality mark, setting apart courses and apprenticeships which are not only outstandingly delivered but trusted by employers to thoroughly prepare students for their career.

Cardiff-based special effects company Real SFX worked with Cyfle from the start, honing the apprenticeship to directly create job opportunities in the area. “In the past we had to look to London to employ staff,” says Carmela Carrubba, Real SFX Company Director. “This apprenticeship programme is changing that trend. This year we were so impressed with candidates we selected two.”

Showcasing your talent

Portfolio of work built by an apprentice is key to their career development, says Roberts Ozolins, apprentice at software developer Igniso. “If you apply for a job in web design, you're asked about the experience you have,” he points out. More than ever, apprentices need to be able to showcase their experience, their talent — and themselves.

Hiive, the professional network for creative people, backed by Creative Skillset, is a free platform for anyone searching for apprenticeship opportunities in the creative industries. Bringing together your creative work and social channels from across the web, Hiive helps you showcase your personality and attitudes as well as your developing portfolio.

Tag the skills you’d like to learn and the jobs you want and Hiive will match you to courses, vacancies and, above all, the right people to connect with. “It’s hooking us up with apprentices who are searching for that specialist subject” says James Mulvany, Igniso founder.

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