Six will train backstage under Birmingham Rep youth pilot

Birmingham Repertory Theatre has launched a £270,000 apprenticeship scheme that will allow six young people, aged between 16 and 21, to receive vocational training while working in the venue’s production and technical departments.

The course will last from now until February 2007 and the theatre management believes that it is the first of its kind and scale in the UK. It will serve as a pilot scheme for its European funders Equal and, if successful, it could be extended to other theatres across the country.

Apprentices will be given the chance to learn their trade in a specific area of the theatre, including sound, lighting, wigs, makeup as well as stage and technical stage management.

Birmingham Rep executive director Stuart Rogers said: “There is a current shortage within the theatre industry of skilled technical staff. The Rep’s apprentice scheme will not only start to address this problem but will also help inform young people, particularly those from diverse communities, that these type of jobs exist, and encourage them to see them as a viable career option.

“We’ve been trying to set up something like this for the last three or four years. But, I was very concerned that the young people had a decent amount of time in the theatre and that they were paid. It’s an 18-month project to begin with and part of the reason the Equal funding exists is to test employment opportunities in the hope that it might be able to extend the projects. There’s a chance that it could be approved as a national model to be used in other theatres as well as possibly extending the scheme at the Rep.”

The project is being supported by European Union funding through its Equal initiative, which offers funding for employment-based projects across Europe. Equal has supplied half of the apprenticeship’s budget, while the remainder of the cost is being covered by the Birmingham Rep and is being supplied as in-kind time and use of facilities.

AK Bennett Hunter, board member for technical training organisation Skillscene, commented: “This is a very good and positive initiative that should be encouraged. However, in the future it is important that projects such as this fit into the larger scheme of things and are co-ordinated with similar courses and accreditation schemes across the country. I look forward to seeing the new Creative and Cultural Skills Council providing a framework for that to happen.”

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