Imagine, if you will, a packed Sixth Form common room. It's the third Thursday of August, the year is 2013, and I am clueless about what to do with my life.
Fast forward four years and I am successfully self-employed – managing projects all over the country, and keeping a steady hand on the tiller of my burgeoning career as an actor. This can all be traced back to one simple fact: my A level results weren't very good. I often compare my results to whales – they didn't come above "C" level.
So, there I was, gazing into the chasm of life with no idea what to. I spent several weeks "soul searching", trying everything to find employment - from endlessly pouring through the various jobsites and signing up to employment agencies, to going door-to-door to the different businesses in the towns surrounding.
It was hopeless. I was uninspired, unqualified, and unwilling to work a job I didn't care about. Pretty standard stuff for your average teenager that had the rug pulled out from underneath them, isn't it? But then I realised that I needed to embrace the cliché of "doing what you love", so I applied to arts organisations exclusively. Theatres, galleries, cinemas, studios, production companies. Every single one of them turned me down. I was underqualified. Who was I kidding? And then I saw it, the advertisement that changed my life.
Why hadn't I thought of it before? An apprenticeship, of course! How else to solve my issues of being unqualified for a job in the arts, having no job experience, and being unemployed? I can tell you exactly why I'd never thought of it - an apprenticeship was never an option that I was allowed to consider throughout my entire academic career. High school, sixth form, university – that was the natural order, and any designs outside of that were quashed. Any claims that uni might not be for you were met by a chorus of "What about a different course... What about a different uni, with a lower entrance criteria..." and the like. An apprenticeship was a new idea, an exciting idea.
And as it turns out, it was an excellent idea.
From that first day as a new apprentice I accomplished many things, that I would never have dreamed that I would have been able to do like starting a local arts festival (DissFest – which continues to have massive success year on year), being on the board of an innovative Arts Organisation (Unit Twenty Three CIC), having the exquisite pleasure of being a writer, administrator, and reviewer on this fabulous website (I swear Editor Tom didn't make me say that); and being the proud recipient of the 2014 CCSkills Apprentice of the Year.
Apprenticeships are fantastic opportunities, and in my experience they aren't talked about with passion even nearly enough – whether this is because few people choose to take on apprentices, or because apprenticeships have been badly managed in the past (giving them a bad name) I have no idea, but what I can tell you is that there is no greater decision I made in my life than submitting my application to work as an events administrator, and to work towards a Level 3 Diploma in Community Arts Management (supported by a Gold Arts Award).
Without that early step into the world of work I wouldn't be where I am now, and I certainly wouldn't have been where I've been.
Image: Rekha Garton Photography