With options in TV, radio and film production, plus business, design, engineering and journalism, media apprenticeships provide a gateway into the UK's thriving digital industries
Working on the production side of film and television has always required new starters to join as runners and develop their skills on the job. With the more technical roles, such as video editing and visual effects (VFX), previous qualifications in these areas may be welcomed.
If you're looking to enter this competitive landscape straight from sixth form/college or university, a media apprenticeship may provide the ideal stepping stone to a full-time job or contract with the company.
By becoming a media apprentice, you will receive the latest industry training while applying it to your role and being paid a salary. Whether you land a permanent position or not, the contacts you make during this time will be invaluable to your career.
What media apprenticeships are available?
You'll find media apprenticeships in a number of disciplines, including:
- advertising and digital marketing - see marketing apprenticeships
- broadcast media production and editing - television and radio
- film production
Media apprenticeships are typically offered at the following levels:
- Advanced - Level 3, equivalent to A-level.
- Higher - Levels 4 and 5 equivalent to a foundation degree or above.
- Degree - Level 6, equivalent to a Bachelors degree.
Which media companies offer apprenticeships?
When it comes to structured early careers programmes, the UK's major media organisations all offer a number of options, including apprenticeships:
- BBC apprenticeships - available in four areas, including production and journalism. With opportunities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, BBC production apprenticeships are focused on college leavers with a passion for TV, radio or online media. The 18-month BBC Digital Journalism Apprenticeship in London or Salford enables you to work towards the Advanced Level 3 Diploma in Journalism.
- Channel 4 apprenticeships - based, in London, Leeds or Manchester, you could be working in a range of areas, such as its on-demand online channel All 4 or its in-house creative agency 4Creative. A Level 3 or 4 qualification can be achieved within 14 to 24 months.
- ITV apprenticeships - as well as offering a nine-month ITV News traineeship, they also run an apprenticeship programme lasting a minimum of 12 months in areas including studio production, news, commissioning and global entertainment. You could be based in London, Manchester, Leeds or a regional office.
- Sky apprenticeships - its two-year media programmes at Sky News are based in Osterley, west London. By the end of the apprenticeship, you'll have completed the nationally-recognised Level 3 NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification.
- Virgin Media apprenticeships - these schemes are available in technology and engineering or business disciplines so aren't media focused. However, they'd be ideal if you'd like to work for a media company in an information technology (IT) role such as a digital UX specialist or data analyst.
If you want to work in the UK film industry, you'll find that film production apprenticeships with studios are rarely advertised, as entry-level positions (usually starting as a runner) are often filled through word of mouth and having the right contacts. Explore the different roles at jobs in the film industry.
However, organisations such as ScreenSkills have partnered with the likes of Netflix and Warner Bros in taking on around 20 apprentices a year for its 14 to 17-month apprenticeships in TV and film. With this apprenticeship programme, you can choose to become either an assistant production accountant or broadcast production assistant. The 2020 intake has been disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it should be available again in future years.
The National Youth Film Academy also helps to place young people (aged 16 to 25) with UK and global film companies such as Vertigo Films and Amber Entertainment.
What do media apprenticeships involve?
The nature of these specific programmes will depend on the area of specialism - for instance, TV production apprenticeships generally involve you working behind the scenes, performing a range of tasks on set to help everything run as smoothly as possible.
On the BBC's Broadcast Operator Apprenticeship, you'll be working on the technical side of news broadcasting. This means you'll get to set up broadcast equipment in the newsroom, galleries as well as out on location.
The broadcasting company's Production Apprentice Scheme, on the other hand, deals with creating top quality TV, radio, online or social media content. You'll get hands-on training in the entire production process and can specialise in an area of interest, such as radio. This will allow you to focus on developing ideas and stories, master the technical side of the craft or learn about production management.
So whether you're interested in radio, TV or digital media apprenticeships, with a large employer such as the BBC, there's plenty of choice.
To explore different roles and how an apprenticeship might allow you to put your skills to good use, see graduate media jobs.
Who are they aimed at?
With no upper age limit, as long as you're over 16 and meet the employer requirements, you're eligible to apply for a media apprenticeship.
Despite this, apprenticeship providers will have a particular skillset or education background in mind when inviting candidates to apply for one of their programmes. This is mainly due to the level of the apprenticeship.
For example, ITV see their apprenticeships as ideal for school or college leavers as an alternative to university - as they're set at Level 4 (equivalent to a foundation degree). They don't expect you to have acquired much relevant work experience at this point but are hoping to find new talent from all walks of life who can flourish in the media industry.
How much will I be paid?
As an apprentice, you'll be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which currently stands at £4.15 per hour for those under 19, as well as apprentices aged over 19 who are in their first year.
If you're over 19 and have completed your first year, you'll be paid the minimum wage rate for your age. To check you're being paid enough, see the National Minimum Wage Living Wage calculator for workers.
While working as an apprentice, you'll be paid for your regular working hours, as well as for any training that's part of the scheme. You'll also be entitled to 20 days paid holiday each year, plus bank holidays.
As your salary is set by the employer, you may be paid more than the minimum. For example, if you're on the BBC Production Apprenticeship you'll get £14,250 (those based in London receive £18,810) a year plus all your training fees paid for.
How do I become a media apprentice?
Most applications will be made online as you would when applying for any job. See the individual employer's website for details of what they expect from you.
You'll find that media apprenticeships could start at any time of year, but they do typically follow a similar structure to graduate schemes.
For example, Channel 4 applications for the 2020 cohort opened on 17 February, with assessment taking place between 29 June and 24 July for an apprenticeship start date of 7 September.
What about media work experience and internships?
Even if there aren't any media apprenticeship vacancies being advertised in your chosen field, you may still be able to land an internship or seek to gain some form of work experience through a media company.
For instance, the Royal Television Society provides information for those interested in entry-level training opportunities in television production.
While big studios in the thriving video game industry rarely offer apprenticeships, internships may be available as a route into this popular field - see video game careers.
Set up to tackle a lack of diversity in the sector, Creative Access is an organisation that helps students from BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) groups and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to secure media internships.
Also, by building a digital portfolio of your work, making a showreel of your talents, learning how to start your own blog or vlog, these are all creative ways of increasing your chances of gaining media experience. Discover our 5 tips for getting media work experience.