A former apprentice at Stratford-upon-Avon College has risen from trainee to manager in three short years.
Callum Graham, 23, from Kineton in Warwickshire began a year’s training under the College’s apprenticeship programme in September 2011, working as a Technical Theatre Apprentice in Lighting, Stage and Sound with their Technical team. At the end of his training programme, he was immediately offered a permanent position and quickly progressed from Trainee Technician, through Technician, to Technician Instructor. His rise to the top did not stop there, however; since September of last year he has been working at Stratford ArtsHouse as Technical Manager.
After finishing his A levels, Callum decided, like many other students, against going on to University and opted instead for learning in a full-time working environment. A preference for hands-on, work-based training over academic studies was not the only reason for his decision. Unlike university graduates who often find difficulty in obtaining that all-important first job, many apprentices – as in Callum’s case – are offered permanent employment by the company with which they have trained.
“I saw an apprenticeship as an opportunity not only to gain a qualification but as a way to improve my employability and secure a greater chance at a guaranteed job. Everyone I know who has completed an apprenticeship is still employed in their chosen field.”
Callum sees two other major advantages in taking up an apprenticeship. Training is tailored to the needs of each individual apprentice, with a choice of units to complete, and written work – far from being theoretical as is the case when learning in an academic environment – directly complements specific areas of the role the apprentice is actually carrying out.
Moreover, in common with all apprentices, Callum not only avoided the spiralling cost of university tuition, but immediately began earning a guaranteed wage. He is quite clear about the financial benefit: “It’s also a chance to start earning money. I often joke with my friends who have now left university about how I haven’t built up huge amounts of debt!”
Callum cites variety as one of the most enjoyable aspects of his apprenticeship. During his training, his duties included supporting technical theatre requirements for lectures as well as all the students’ performances and productions. ”You could go to work and there was always something different to do. It never became in any way repetitive. I had set responsibilities but every day was different.” Of all his varied achievements, he is most proud of his contribution to the Performing Arts students’ production of Musicals Rock 2; in his role as Production Manager, he played a large part in making this large-scale spectacle a great success.
However, ambitious, hard-working Callum is not content with just one Technical Manager position!
In addition to his role at the ArtsHouse, he has also worked as Technical Manager for a company called Green Side, a venue provider for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – last year he had responsibility for the design and construction of five venues for an incredible 142 different companies performing at The Fringe.
Taking part in an apprenticeship programme has set Callum on the road to a bright and successful career. For the immediate future, he not only plans to return to Edinburgh for this year’s Fringe Festival, but is working hard to ensure that Stratford ArtsHouse is a financially and artistically independent venue. And looking further ahead, the possibilities for Callum are limitless.
“There are so many options open to me in the long term. They might include touring with a theatre company or progressing to another theatre. I’ve got so many opportunities thanks to the apprenticeship.”