Jump to content

University vs Apprenticeship


George.UK
 Share

Recommended Posts

Another vote in favour of junior8 - I've been involved with (non-professional) shows where I've had a call at 20 minutes to curtain up from the stage manager asking if I can fill in at short notice because someone has called in to cancel at the last minute. The same person who had done so more than once before - they quickly fell out of favour.

 

Likewise someone who didn't even turn up for a dress rehearsal once because he'd been in the theatre almost every evening for the last four days and wanted an evening off. Sorry, mate, that's what happens when you put yourself forward to light a show, you take responsibility for it, not just not turn up on a whim. Just because it's volunteer run doesn't mean people aren't relying on you, and that's how reputations can be built and equally broken.

Yep got those T-Shirts too.I became an urgent stand-in for one AmDram when the 'sound man's wife wouldn't let him out for the nth night on the trot. Sadly the group suddenly realised the kit he was offering was a load of pants, I hate to think as the system I put in in a massive rush wasn't 'all that' and the year later they couldn't comprehend the additional kit.

Of course in AmDram particularly, there is no demarkation between jobs and anything with a plug or battery is suddenly the job of the sound or lighting man, including the halls own electrics, kettle [repair and use of] etc.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I first mixed video and called cameras for an event with ~1500 people. The person who was meant to be operating didn't come back from their dinner break. Literally 2 mins before the show kicked off I got a rudimentary explanation of the controls of a Panasonic MX50, and away I went. It was the first time I ever laid hands on a vision mixer, or used comms in anger.

 

If you can be the reliable/available person, it's a good way to acquire experience and grey hairs. .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Going back to the original thread, I went to uni to study electrical engineering and I really did not enjoy it. I found the lecturers to be arrogant and disinterested in lowly undergrad students; and pastoral support was non-existent. I was on the MEng programme and tried to move to the BEng programme because I hated the maths and wanted out; only to be met by a massive propaganda campaign about how if you go on to do an MSc you're basically getting the same tuition but paying more. The best part of uni was the technical committees that I joined.

After uni, I went to work in the railway for a few years before deciding to become a lampy, and doing various vocational electrical qualifications. Luckily, those qualifications coupled with previous learning allowed me to join NAPIT and that's got me through the pandemic. I think what I learned - at uni, in the railway and now working in the entertainment industry - is that I like being hands on. I've met various people who quit uni to go into an apprentice scheme, and I honestly think that I would have been happier if I'd gone off to become a spark. Equally, I've known people who have completed an apprenticeship and gone on to do HNC/HND/BEng/MSc and be much better than the people who did the "traditional" degree route.

 

All the way through my education, the bright people went to uni and the "thickos" went to become apprentices. There was no talk of what an apprenticeship could actually lead to and if I'd known, I'd probably have taken a more vocational route. I think that's what's lacking, and I would urge any young people to explore all routes into the industry.

However, I do agree about not learning a theatre apprenticeship / degree. My life experience makes me a better tech and I do think that there's a lot of people who live in tiny theatre bubbles.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps George would let us know if he is monitoring this and whether it is useful? That being said a bit of historical perspective might help him. When I left school from the sixth form in 1972 I think about five people out of the thirty were headed for university. The rest were there for two reasons mainly. Most were off to some college based vocational training, nursing, teaching, art school (which was seen as vocational then), or other training where the starting age was 18 like some parts of the services. A number were there to do a year retaking weak subjects they needed a good pass in at O level - you'd call it GCSE - to go on to some training or other that say needed a good pass at Maths. Most of my schoolmates had already left to do vocational training. Looking back those who did an apprenticeship got as much academic teaching in the one day a week they did at college as the average undergraduate gets in direct teaching in a week now. Talk to any five year time served tradesman of my age and you'd be amazed at the level of theoretical knowledge that backs up what they do. This denigration of on the job training started with some misguided policies under the Thatcher government around the mid-eighties and reached its redictio ad absurdum with the Royal Agricultural College and a load of average HE colleges being allowed to add university to their names for the outlay of not much more than a pot of paint.

 

What I am saying in short is that when I was your age if we were 'directed' anywhere at 18 it was to a 'living' and only a few of us even wanted the keys to the ivory towers of academia. A mirror image of now or at least up to the end of 2019.

 

Truth is though at 18 as Charlotte says you don't really know so I'll say again. Don't make the choice until you have really thought what you want. The choice for me is simple. Its' between 'getting stuck in' or 'another three years in the classroom'! Uni staff won't agree I'm sure.

Edited by Junior8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its' between 'getting stuck in' or 'another three years in the classroom'! Uni staff won't agree I'm sure.

 

Most uni staff would disagree that uni is 3 years in the classroom yes. OP - do go to open days and check out the content of any course that has caught your interest. 3 years in a classroom ought to be a warning flag of a poor quality course.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 years but how much at home on the end of a zoom call? There are lots of skilled theatre people out of work now, when things get going again - these people are going to be in demand. Lots of venues don't exist any more and it will take a long time for this industry to recover. I know that if it was me starting out now - seeing how this industry was simply abandonned, I think an aprenticeship in a non-entertainment trade is worth far, far more. These trades are always in demand, but with hand on heart, if I had kids to guide, I'd be 100% against them going into this business, and the reputation of even the best universities is suspect now - we will have people graduating never having worked on real shows, never being attached to a busy working venue, and probably never actually touching some equipment. Given the choice of a graduate or somebody with experience of work - the graduates don't, sadly, stand much of a chance. If by some miracle my own theatre ever opens again, I can get a crew and spares so easily - I've had speculative CVs from some really good people. Normally where I live, it's think on these people, but not now. Being a plumber, electrician, painter - all mean you can work in theatre if you are keen - the venues when they start taking on people will take the most experienced and useful people. Those with just one skill area will not be very attractive.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll echo that. I left school in 1979 after A levels, and had been fortunate to get a sponsorship deal with EMI, so I was on a "thick sandwich", this being a year in industry as an apprentice, then degree, then a year (minimum) back with the sponsoring company. The time as an apprentice was actually useful - not just cheap labour, but getting involved with live projects in a supervised manner, after spending 3 months in the apprentice training school learning basic "bench engineering" skills such as fitting, folding, pressing, soldering, turning etc.

 

Then off to uni, where I discovered that the course I'd chosen, B.Sc. Electrical and Electronic Engineering, wasn't quite the fit I'd hoped for, veering very heavily towards heavy power side of electrical initially, rather than the electronics and microprocessors I'd more interest in (and which had featured in the presentations and workshops on the visits I'd done while still at school). Bad choice of course on my part, but it wasn't possible (at the time) to change course, and so lacking the interest, I drifted through the year a bit and failed the first year exams (and the retakes I did, both times only narrowly).

 

This meant I lost my place at EMI, as continued employment was contingent passing on your exams, so I was out in the big wide world, and I got a job at a local company building calculators for the financial markets. This led to me learning to program, via becoming the main trouble-shooter and at one stage one of the circuit designers, and from there into my current career, as a software developer. But the lessons I learned in work have been really useful in my volunteer theatre work (which I've only been doing for about ten years, to be honest).

 

So I think, as others have said, you really need to look very carefully at all the options, make sure that an academic course is a good fit and that its content will grab you and propel you on, or learn useful, saleable practical skills.

Edited by alistermorton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Warning, miserable old scrote typing.

This is not a business to get into unless you really have to, wanting is not enough. A friend used to say that it was like getting into the circus ring and getting sawdust in an open wound. Either that wound festers and you never go back or the sawdust hooks you and no matter how many times you leave you always get dragged back.

 

If you really must work in the business then get as wide and broad a grounding as you can. I did a lot of amdram, semi-pro and pro LX work but my main bag became outdoor events production and from that Health and Safety. Had I known this in 1965 I would have stayed in school, gone to uni and become an EHO/Licensing Officer but in 1965 we hadn't invented the industry. Catch 22.

 

At various points in my travels I have been an electrician, carpenter, scaffolder, LD, sound engineer, truck driver, tractor/fork lift/telehandler driver, elevating platform driver, site manager, safety manager, production manager, diplomat, counsellor and nursemaid. The big lesson I learned was persistence. The majority of people who enter this game do not get past 45. They have this unreasonable desire for a life/marriage/kids/home or even regular meals.

 

Look around and count the number of old heads like Junior or Paul then count the numbers of graduate technicians coming out of education every year. I don't think it an exaggeration to say there are more college courses than there are technicians who make retirement at 65 and each course bangs out more into the business than ever retire from it.

 

My sorta dorta seems typical of today's career paths, more like a crazy paving than a path. She has begun and quit after two years on two wildly differing degrees and is now doing another remotely. She has worked in the Biz rubbing shoulders with stars and swanning along the Croisette but has ended up in a very responsible, highly paid role with a Cotswold house and a great partner. It is several light years away from The Biz.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Warning, miserable old scrote typing.

This is not a business to get into unless you really have to, wanting is not enough. A friend used to say that it was like getting into the circus ring and getting sawdust in an open wound. Either that wound festers and you never go back or the sawdust hooks you and no matter how many times you leave you always get dragged back.

 

If you really must work in the business then get as wide and broad a grounding as you can. I did a lot of amdram, semi-pro and pro LX work but my main bag became outdoor events production and from that Health and Safety. Had I known this in 1965 I would have stayed in school, gone to uni and become an EHO/Licensing Officer but in 1965 we hadn't invented the industry. Catch 22.

 

At various points in my travels I have been an electrician, carpenter, scaffolder, LD, sound engineer, truck driver, tractor/fork lift/telehandler driver, elevating platform driver, site manager, safety manager, production manager, diplomat, counsellor and nursemaid. The big lesson I learned was persistence. The majority of people who enter this game do not get past 45. They have this unreasonable desire for a life/marriage/kids/home or even regular meals.

 

Look around and count the number of old heads like Junior or Paul then count the numbers of graduate technicians coming out of education every year. I don't think it an exaggeration to say there are more college courses than there are technicians who make retirement at 65 and each course bangs out more into the business than ever retire from it.

My sorta dorta seems typical of today's career paths, more like a crazy paving than a path. She has begun and quit after two years on two wildly differing degrees and is now doing another remotely. She has worked in the Biz rubbing shoulders with stars and swanning along the Croisette but has ended up in a very responsible, highly paid role with a Cotswold house and a great partner. It is several light years away from The Biz.

 

One thing you didn't mention Kerry is the number of people employed in each event is getting greater every year.

For a start we didn't have 30 festivals a year and the early versions didn't need 'n' people to build the stage, 'n' people to build the canopy, 'n' people to rig/program/operate lithts, 'n' people to rig/program/operate sound, 'n' H&S staff etc, etc.

About 1965 [I was about 10] I helped 3 men prepare an opensided barn for an evening of local music. The venue was cleaned out, swept and washed. the lighting consisted of several home made festoons, each containing bulbs of the same colour and each switched on as that colour required. the sound was a couple of concord linear 30W valve amps feeding the 4 12" 10W speakers hanging from the edge of the roof, a mixer I'm unable to recall to control the 4 assorted microphones [I still have the Lustraphone ribbon and yellow cast IronTrix moving coil mics] with only the one person operating sound and lights. One band brought in their instrument amps and drum kit which were used by all of the bands. OK this was only hundreds of people, not ten or hundreds of thousands.Oh and the catering was a couple of tables in a stable selling crisps, wagon wheels, orange squash in beakers borrowed from the local school and bottles of light or brown ale or babycham. The whole event was run by a handful of people. In contrast it will now take that many just for the lights.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I may have mentioned it before on here, but a few years back I had an enlightening conversation with a college tutor.

He was bemoaning the standard of incoming students (some struggled to unfold a mic stand), and I was bemoaning the standard of many graduates we come across.

 

He mentioned that one graduating year, from a relatively minor college, would relate 100+ graduates onto the job market from the audio course alone. I don't know how many full-time jobs there are in audio (even Covid notwithstanding) but there would need to be tens of thousands for there to be enough openings appearing for each of these students to have a crack at a job.

 

So what happens, and this is reflected in many of the CVs I receive, is youngsters are persuaded to take on a course, with the resulting tuition fees and debt. Only a lucky handful move on to full-time employment in the industry, the rest are stuck with a qualification that's of little use elsewhere and are stuck with whatever shelf stacking or driving jobs are available. When we've been advertising for posts I see far too many people who have been educated to degree level, but haven't been able to find relevant work for 3+yrs and have very little practical experience.

 

It's a scam - pure and simple. The only people who win are the educational institutions, who are pretty much run as profit-making organisations.

I don't know how the ratios play out in other industries, but I doubt many people would take on a medical degree if there was a <5% chance of landing a junior doctor post at the end of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a scam - pure and simple. The only people who win are the educational institutions, who are pretty much run as profit-making organisations.

I don't know how the ratios play out in other industries, but I doubt many people would take on a medical degree if there was a <5% chance of landing a junior doctor post at the end of it.

 

I think there are good colleges and bad colleges, good courses and bad courses.

The course you choose may have a big bearing on your employability at the end of it, I'd be wary of a course teaching 100+ students on the subject of audio, that's a big number.

A good place to look at colleges would be the Federation of Drama Schools as these are reputable establishments, that on the whole have been going for quite some time. Many of them are traditional 'drama' schools, which have acting students, and musicians, as well as technical courses.

 

Full disclosure - I was a student at RWCMD 1992-1995. Back then, there weren't many technical courses about, I think I had the choice of 3.

These colleges have a lot more links with industry than perhaps some of the less well known establishments, for example, ex-students may now be employees in professional venues and will offer work placements at their venue. Don't underestimate the power of the Alumni! If you ask the colleges you are interested in, they should be able to tell you what sort of roles students go into when they finish.

 

That said, I have had quite a lot to do with the apprenticeship scheme at a previous employer, and for some of the apprentices, that I taught skills to, they have gone onto work professionally in the industry. This is by far a cheaper way of learning - but you have to want to learn, as it won't come to you if you sit there and don't engage with your employer. If you find yourself as an apprentice working in a large venue, you'll be exposed to a huge variety of professional productions, so you will see what it's like working in the 'real world' - (not something easily replicated at a drama school btw).

I'm sure, like college courses, there are good and bad apprenticeship schemes too, I have heard stories from ex-apprentices that they were used by their employer as a regular additional member of staff, as the venue was short staffed. So in either cases - buyer beware, and get as much information about the route you want to take - before you take it, as it's harder to change (not impossible) once you're signed up.

 

Dicky

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there are good colleges and bad colleges, good courses and bad courses.

 

I don't disagree with that. There are some courses that are excellent. And then there are those that provide little more than a babysitting service and the chance to play around with some kit in a studio.

 

buyer beware, and get as much information about the route you want to take - before you take it, as it's harder to change (not impossible) once you're signed up.

 

This is very good advice. Many prospective students forget that colleges and universities are run like businesses. Approach your educational choices like you would any other purchase, weigh up the options and don't assume that education is provided from purely altruistic motives.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...