Want My Job? with Melissa J. Gillespie - Creative Apprentice

Being an apprentice can be highly beneficial for a young person, especially when you need a good head start in the world of work (trust me - I know what it's like). Melissa from Culture Bridge North East tells us her version of events below.

Want My Job? with Melissa J. Gillespie - Creative Apprentice

What is your current job title? What does your job involve?

I’m the Creative Apprentice for Culture Bridge North East. Mostly, I take care of the general running of the office: administration, finance, answering the phone, taking care of the office inbox, organising meetings and taking minutes, etc. Every day is different, which is great – and on top of all of this I also get to do some really exciting stuff like organise the North East Artsmark celebrations, which celebrate the teachers that work so hard to support the arts in their settings, and ‘Imagine If…’, Culture Bridge North East’s annual cultural education conference. 

What’s great about your job?

That’s a really tough question – I think all of it is great. I love the people I work with, and I really believe in the work that Culture Bridge North East does – that is, work with the culture and education sectors to connect every child and young person in the North East with great arts and culture.

As this is an apprenticeship, I also get the chance to work with other teams as part of my professional development. The Learning team at the Laing Art Gallery have been amazing in allowing me to get involved with their Art Academies and Art Schools for children and young people, and to take some of those children through Arts Award. I’m also currently doing a placement with Great Exhibition of the North as their Schools’ Programme Assistant. I never would have been able to do this if I were in any other job, and I’m really grateful to have a manager that encourages me to take these opportunities and who really wants me to do well.

What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?

When I first started I had a big problem with answering phones, and speaking up at meetings (I struggle with anxiety sometimes). Luckily, I have a really great manager, and she’s done a lot of work with me to build my confidence around speaking to people and getting my voice heard. I feel like a totally different person now to when I first started!

What are the highlights of your career to date?

Doing the art sessions at the Laing Art Gallery and taking children and young people through Arts Award has definitely felt like the biggest step for me, but I also feel that this is on par with the events I’ve organised – all fairly big events that have required a lot of logistical planning. They’re both very different but both feel like big achievements. To watch an event you’ve organised play out successfully and to see people enjoy it and get a lot out of it is a fantastic feeling.

How did you get into an arts job?  Have you also worked outside the arts?

I worked in cafes for a few years after I had to leave my university course in Illustration when my student finance didn’t come through. I spent so long job hunting for something art related, but everything I saw required a degree. Eventually I happened across the listing for this apprenticeship, was lucky enough to get it, and here we are.

Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge so far, I think, is yet to come. My apprenticeship finishes in October this year, and the idea of job hunting again does fill me with a kind of dread. I worry that I’ll have come all this way only to have employers still say they want me to have a degree to be able to apply for the jobs I want, despite all of my experience. I suppose we’ll see what happens later this year!

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

Apprenticeships are an amazing way to get real world experience in the job you want – without getting yourself into thousands of pounds of debt! There are apprenticeships in so many different areas of the arts and culture sector, from Community Arts Administration and Management – my apprenticeship – to theatre, film, music, museums, galleries… University is not the only route into what you want to do. And remember, you can always do a degree after your apprenticeship if you decide that’s what you want. A good place to get more information – not just about apprenticeships, but about careers in arts and culture – is Creative and Cultural Skills’ website.

Want more tips on working in the arts? Head on over to Creative Choices, a website filled to the brim with advice on how to get into the arts.


Luke Taylor

Luke Taylor Contributor

I work as the Network Administrator for Voice. Having completed my apprenticeship at Unit Twenty Three, I continue my work supporting Voice and the Youth Network in whatever way possible. Music is my passion, and I will happily talk about all the bands you've probably never heard of!

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