The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeships Week is “Skills for Life”; a fantastic theme, which has been a core part of our work with apprentices at the National Theatre (NT) for over a decade.
Since 2012, the NT has been training apprentices. Over this period, we have recruited 50 entry-level apprentices in 17 different departments, upskilled 17 employees, and recruited four apprentices as part of the government’s pilot Portable Flexi-Job Apprenticeships scheme – this is in conjunction with the Royal Opera House, Ambassador Theatre Group and White Light. 91% of those entry-level apprentices who completed their training with us in the last decade have gone directly into paid professional work in the area they were trained in, eight former apprentices are working at the NT, whilst others are working as freelancers and in different venues across the sector. But it’s not just about theatre, skills learnt here at the NT are being applied in the film and television industry, the Royal Navy and even within a tattoo parlour in Peckham.
It’s these holistic skills that appealed to our current apprentice Maria Hucker (24) who is currently training as a Scenic Metalwork Apprentice: “I wanted hands on experience from real people rather than having to sit in a classroom all the time.”
Looking forward, we plan to start engaging with the UK government’s new T Level qualifications. Aiming to support post-GCSE students in the study of a practical subject with the ambition to get students ready to enter the workforce, each T Level is the equivalent of 3 A-Levels and will include an industry placement. As the local community is an important part of our organisation, we are talking to local schools about hosting students within business administration roles, as well as planning to deliver practical placements in our backstage areas in partnership with Mulberry UTC to align with the launch of the Media, Broadcast and Production T Level in September. We have also been trailblazing more new apprenticeship standards for the sector to open career routes across a range of different backstage areas, with new standards for Costume Technician, Scenic Automatic, Scenic Art and Wigs, Hair, Make up & Prosthetics Technician near completion.
Whilst acknowledging that there are challenges in delivering meaningful apprenticeships, including challenges of time and capacity which will vary from organisation to organisation, I believe we should focus our energy on working together as a sector, alongside the government, to ensure that apprenticeships can have real impact on our creative workforce, and the wider economy. Investing in skills and education for young people, from all backgrounds, will support and sustain the pipeline of talent into the industry, whilst widening routes into the industry.
Apprenticeships at the National Theatre are supported by Bank of America, Eggardon Trust, and The Radcliffe Trust.
By Kath Geraghty, Head of Workforce Development at the National Theatre and Chair of the Creative and Design Route Panel at IfATE (Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education).
Find out more about technical education and routes into the industry.