Before my apprenticeship began I'd been working part-time in cafes, first in London and then back home in Newcastle, after an unsuccessful attempt at the conventional route into the creative career I wanted: university.
It was due to personal problems that I returned home to Newcastle, completely disheartened and feeling as though I'd never be able to work in the arts – the industry I'd wanted to be part of since primary school.
This is what can happen when organisations open their doors and give people who haven’t been able to go the conventional route the same opportunities as those that have.
The only jobs that came up during my year-long search while I was waitressing in an art gallery café, 都需要学位, 是无薪实习, 或者是支付3英镑的学徒制.每小时50. Sometimes the ads didn't even ask for the degree to be in a related subject; they simply said ‘educated to degree level’. In any case, the doors were shut in my face at every turn, or at least that's how it felt.
I couldn’t afford to go back to university to finish my degree, and I couldn’t afford to apply for any of the internships or apprenticeships that paid less than the adult minimum wage. 我有房租和账单要付. So when the Creative Apprenticeship at Culture Bridge North East appeared in my search, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the experience I needed in the arts and culture sector, and gain some qualifications at the same time.
The job was full-time and paid national minimum wage according to age, which meant I could actually afford to take it on. 现在, a couple of months into my second year at Culture Bridge North East and my Level 3 qualification in Community 艺术s Management, I have no doubt it’s the best thing I could have done, and I’m grateful to Culture Bridge North East for giving me the opportunity. But I’m also very aware of how lucky I am to be here: this was the only apprenticeship or internship I'd come across in over a year of job hunting that was paying the adult minimum wage, and if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have been offered the position, I'd still barely be managing as a part-time waitress, and the arts and culture sector would still be a closed door
2017年10月, I received a letter from Gateshead College telling me I'd been selected as Creative Industries Apprentice of the Year at its annual Edge Apprentice Awards. 在庆祝晚会上, I was struck by how far I had come since taking on my apprenticeship with Culture Bridge North East in 2016, and how lucky I am to be in the position that I'm in. These feelings had already been stoked by the Case for Culture Stakeholder Forum event I'd attended two weeks before the awards at the Discovery Museum, where the discussions I'd taken part in returned often to apprenticeships during conversations about progression, 发展, and access to talent across the culture sector.
访问 to the arts is a huge barrier for so many people whose dream it is to work in the creative industries, 比如BAME人, LGBT社区+, 残疾人, and those who don’t have a degree or can’t afford to go to university. This was discussed with some passion at the forum, and it was fascinating to hear employers talk about what they could do to improve the diversity of their workforce, and access to the arts and culture sector as a whole. One individual said their organisation had recently done away with asking candidates to have a degree, 而不是要求获得3级资格. There was some debate as to whether that would be enough, and I don’t believe it is.
There is of course more to this issue than doing away with the degree requirement in the ‘Essential’ section of the job specification. But it is a start, and one that I’m thankful for.
2017年对我来说是重要的一年. Over the course of those 12 months I went from dreading the day that I'd inevitably find out I wasn’t good enough to work in the culture sector to organising the North East’s first 艺术smark celebration event, organising Culture Bridge North East’s second annual cultural education conference, 想象一下,如果..., showing artwork as part of a major exhibition at Newcastle City 图书馆, becoming an experienced 艺术s Award adviser and being selected as Gateshead College’s Creative Industries Apprentice of the Year!
This is what can happen when organisations open their doors and give people who haven’t been able to go the conventional route the same opportunities as those that have: they can develop into dedicated, 充满激情的, 自信, 雄心勃勃的专业人士.
My apprenticeship ends this coming October, and while I’m naturally anxious about the future and whether I'll be able to find a job in the arts and culture sector, for the first time in years I’m also hopeful - hopeful that due to my experience and accomplishments, 这就足够了.