Viewpoint: Why apprenticeships are crucial when pursuing a career in the music biz

Viewpoint: Why apprenticeships are crucial when pursuing a career in the music biz

This week (March 6-10) is the tenth annual National Apprenticeship Week, designed to celebrate previous success stories and encourage more people to get involved in apprenticeships. Bo-Dee Kelly, who entered the music business as an apprentice and now has a full-time role as a music reporting delivery agent at PPL, explains her experiences and why apprenticeships are a good thing for the music industry…

I always knew I wanted to work in the music industry - I loved music and all the creativity that comes with it – but, like many people, I didn’t know where to start. I have GCSEs, an AS level and a BTEC National Diploma in fashion under my belt, and spent some time as an intern for a PR company. I had also taken part in youth projects at The Roundhouse in Camden, north London, aimed at NEETS (that’s Not in Education, Employment or Training for the uninitiated!).

Of course I’d heard about apprenticeships before but didn’t really know a huge amount so to get a bit of guidance, I went to UK Music’s Careers Day at Ministry Of Sound in London. Hearing a panel discussion about how apprenticeships allowed you to learn about the industry while working within it, everything crystallised and I knew this was the direction for me.

It is a route which is becoming increasingly important. Over the past few years the Government has put a strong focus on apprenticeships to get young people into the workforce and arm them with skills they will need. And next month the introduction of a new levy will aim to encourage their take-up even more by funding training.

The idea is that larger companies will pay the tax to fully fund their apprentice training, and even smaller companies, which do not pay the levy, will have most of their training costs covered.So, back to my own experience, I was fortunate to get a place with the wonderfully supportive PPL (I’m one of 70 people so far to be directly helped into apprenticeships by UK Music). I was already aware of their work because, funnily enough, during my stint in PR I did the company’s PPL licensing and thought it would be a good company to work for.

With no preconceptions or expectations when starting, I went in wanting to learn as much as possible about the music industry, especially those behind-the-scenes aspects.

PPL gave me solid support with a great line-manager. If I had any questions, I could ask them without sounding silly; if I took an interest in something, they pointed me in the right direction and encouraged me to get involved. They enabled me to grow and develop my skill-set and knowledge, whilst being able to go one day a week to college on “day-release”. I learned key business skills and processes as well as how to be more analytical. Who would have this kind of stuff could be so interesting – music reporting, royalty distribution? It is fascinating though. I love knowing how everything works.

At the end of my year-long apprenticeship I was 100% confident I had learned valuable skills that would truly help me get another job. PPL obviously had confidence in me too as they kept me on as a member of staff and in all, I’ve now been there for two and a half years.

The seamless transition from apprentice to full-time employee was super-easy. The skills I acquired left me fully-prepared – my responsibilities simply increased and I got the opportunity to work on more projects. Without the apprenticeship, I doubt I would have my current job.

Apprenticeships are hugely important. For those who take part in a well-run programme, they provide an opportunity to learn the basic ins-and-outs of the industry and have full support along the way. For the employers, apprenticeships are a wonderful way to introduce a wider, more diverse talent pool into their company. UK Music’s training provider DiVA has drawn almost a quarter of the people on its placements from a BAME background, and 62% are female.

Apprenticeships are not just the preserve of young people. The Women And Work All Party Parliamentary Group recently highlighted the importance of these schemes in helping women to return to work after a career break. In short, apprenticeships are a golden opportunity for a music industry which is trying to take its commitments to diversity seriously.

Things have come full circle for me and I’m now in the position of speaking at numerous events, giving my own perspective on apprenticeships. Later this week I will be speaking about my own experiences at UK Music’s Music Industry Careers Day at New River Studios rehearsal space in Tottenham, to encourage and guide a future intake.

My advice to them of course is go for it – it’s a great starting point to get a foot in the door.

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