My name is Will Lomas, and I've been working on a Level 3 Diploma in Creative and Digital Media for the last 18 months.
I'm due to complete my course in the coming weeks, and so wanted to take the opportunity to write a little bit about my decision to start on this particular career trajectory, the lessons I've learned along the way and some advice for other young people who might be considering an apprenticeship as a way into work or as an alternative to higher education.
After finishing sixth form, I had more or less decided that I was finished with formal education. A-levels had been tedious and unenjoyable, and in hindsight, they weren't the best option for me. I finished with average grades, little inspiration and no real idea about what to do next. I was playing music in a function band at the weekends, and this was earning me a reasonable amount of money for a student and was not particularly taxing compared to a more traditional part-time job. However, I was aware that a career as a musician was far from secure. Although I consider myself to be a reasonable guitar player, I knew I was still way, way off from being at a professional standard.
"Parents know best"
Speaking to my parents, they encouraged me to start by thinking about things I enjoyed outside of music. They have always been a great support in this way: in their eyes, loving what you do trumps the reward of a hefty pay packet, in the end. I had always been fascinated by cameras and photography, without really knowing much about them. Again, I was nervous about exploring this avenue because of the sheer amount of so-called 'photography experts' out there. And as much as my ambition has never been to get rich, I knew that photography was a crowded marketplace. You had to be extremely talented to get noticed and make a decent living.
Despite this, I started to explore ways I could learn more, but at the same time, begin to forge something of a career for myself. It wasn't long before the idea of an apprenticeship became an attractive proposition. It took some time, but eventually, I found a course that suited me. What was even better is that my apprenticeship enabled me to work for a fantastic small business operating in a sector that I previously thought was never possible for me: music.
Artist Management Services is a small, Nottingham-based business, operating not far from where I went to school. In a nutshell, they manage musicians and bands using a 360 degrees approach, helping artists to achieve their career ambitions whilst not compromising on their other life goals. They allowed me to explore my passions in a way and practical way within the business. I've shot music videos; I've learned how to use and maintain industry-standard camera and video equipment; I've become a reasonably good photographer (if I do say so myself). Whilst learning the role alongside completing the course itself, I've also developed certain life skills, such as working as part of a highly efficient team, practising good communication, becoming disciplined in independent work and managing large-scale projects. I can't say it's been without challenges, but I can honestly say I've enjoyed and felt value in every second.
Young people today face one of the most challenging, unpredictable and cut-throat job markets in modern times. Given the impact of COVID-19 and the prospect of millions of more jobs being lost, the choice of where you work and what you do seem less and less critical. To have a job, any job, that pays the bills, in current times, should be considered enough. I still remember sitting in career talks at school where the guest speaker would spout one-liners such as, "the possibilities are endless", or "if you put your mind to it, you can be whatever you want to be!" It almost seems laughable now, and I imagine that similar talks in future will be trying to strike a different tone altogether.
Expertise and experience over qualifications.
I don't pretend to have any answers to the crisis we currently face, and I certainly would never try to preach to anyone about what they should be doing when they leave school. All I can do is speak about my own experience and strongly recommend the apprenticeship route, particularly for those who know their strengths lie outside the world of academia. The lifestyle university offers is tempting for many, and there's no doubt that for some career trajectories, higher education is the only option. My personal feeling is that the value of a degree, in many sectors, is lowering year on year. Expertise and experience, particularly in creative fields where AI technology and automation is so inferior, are far more desirable that qualifications. It's never been a better time to be a nerd who likes coding for computer games, or a geeky watercolour artist, or an obsessive drummer who plays until their fingers blister... Surely, the dream scenario is to earn a living doing what you love. Work to live, not live to work, as someone once told me.
As well as all that I have previously mentioned, my apprenticeship course has given me some life-long friends, and the chance to work with some incredibly driven and talented individuals. I am pleased to say that Artist Management Services have offered me a full-time contract upon completion of my course, and I can't wait to see where the next chapter of this journey will take me. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and best of luck if you're considering your options for the future.