Last Friday I had the most amazing and exciting opportunity to work with City & Guilds and visit The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. I also got the chance to play at being a film presenter for the day which is up there in the list of one of the coolest things I've ever done!
The film we made is part of the #Opendoors campaign that City & Guilds are running at the moment. City & Guilds have already made a series of videos exploring how young people can open doors to a bright future. So far the films have been made by young people for young people. We made a film from a parent's perspective, learning and finding out about the opportunities there are for our children.
The Royal Opera House is the most amazing and inspiring place. We got to film inside the auditorium which was really exciting and such a beautiful space. I had to do a piece to camera which was a bit nerve-racking but the production team were all so nice to me I soon warmed up and hopefully I pulled it off!
We went up to the costume department to meet and interview one of the apprentices, Issabella Dabiri. She was busy working on a pair of trousers for an upcoming production of The Wind in the Willows. I got to have a go at sewing them to but it was all quickly unpicked as my sewing skills are terrible! Isabella was an absolute pleasure to talk to and a lovely girl. She talked to me about going to university but that it wasn't for her and that she decided she had a keen interest in costume men's tailoring in particular. She applied to The Royal Opera House and was accepted for an apprenticeship and is now doing her dream job, gaining qualifications and that all important work experience, something that an employer in her industry places much emphasis on. She felt that at the end of her training she would find it easier to find work within the costume and theatre industry than if she had done a degree without practical experience. I'm sure that Isabella will be hugely successful in her future career, whichever aspect of design she chooses to focus on. You never know we might see her designs gracing the catwalk one day!
I also got to meet and interview Fay Fullerton who is the Head of Costume. She took me on a tour of the whole department and explained to me that the apprentices were able to work in all aspects of design in the department; from the dye department to accessories to making actual costumes for the stage. We discussed how she felt that apprentices are extremely valued members of the team and that the level of training and expertise they receive there is invaluable in terms of giving them a platform to their dream job within the industry.
After lunch, we travelled to The Royal Opera House workshop in the Bob and Tamar Manoukian workshop in Purfleet, Essex where we met Lucy Kevill, an apprentice in the carpentry department. Lucy was an absolutely inspiring girl who exuded an obvious love for her craft. She quickly showed me how to turn a few batons of wood into a piece of framework for set design, I even got to have a go hammering it all together! Like Isabella, Lucy had also been accepted into university but felt that the written workload would be too much for her and thought an apprenticeship would be her best route into carpentry and set design. Lucy has dreams of working at the Sydney Opera House and The Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was such a pleasure to hear Lucy talking with such passion and enthusiasm about her work and I have no doubts that she will fulfil her aspirations!
Both girls parents must be so proud of them for what they have achieved at a workplace so prestigious as The Royal Opera House. I know I would be.
I also got to tour the workshop and talk to Emma Troubridge who is Head of Scenic Art. She showed me around where they build and paint the scenery and set, and all the amazing artwork that is produced there. Emma talked passionately about her belief in apprenticeships and how she felt that in her industry in particular apprenticeships are the future for our young people. It was so lovely to hear Emma describe the satisfaction she gets from seeing apprentices she has had a hand in training coming back to work in the department sometimes years later as highly skilled craftspeople-experts in their field.
I absolutely loved the experience of being able to go to one of our country's most high profile institutions and see exactly what goes on there, how much work and effort takes place behind the scenes and how many skilled people it takes to pull a production together. Thank you so much to everyone at City & Guilds and the Production team from Kameleon for making me feel so at ease, making sure I was ok and treating me like a star!It had a great day.
What did I learn?
I've learnt a lot about vocational training and apprenticeships. As a parent to teenagers thinking about what their next steps should be after completing their GCSEs I didn't know enough about this subject in order to be able to help, guide and advise them. I don't think the current education system is doing enough to prepare our young people for future employment and I think the schools need to do more in teaching children that an apprenticeship can be as valid a route into the workplace as a university degree and treating apprenticeships more equally.
There's something called The Skills Show that's taking place at The Birmingham NEC on 13-15th November and I'll definitely be taking my children along. It's a huge exhibition showing the huge variety of careers and opportunity out there! It looks like a lot of fun with 'have a go' demonstrations and parents and children can talk to prospective employers and find out more. It's free to attend and you can book a ticket here.
Do comment below and let me know what you think about apprenticeships and what your child will be doing after their exams. I'd also be interested to hear if you think your child's school has prepared them for what happens next.