Looking Back with Artswork’s 2021 Graduating Apprentices | Harriet, Creative Apprentice at Aspex Gallery

Date Created: 14th Jul 2021

Image of Harriet smiling at the camera sat in front of an exposed brick wall background

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Now with two apprenticeships under her belt, Harriet has realised her ambition of working in galley education, a career she stumbled across through volunteering which she thought might not be possible without a university degree…

After leaving college without finishing my A Levels, I’d had a whole host of jobs in retail, cleaning, and as a barista. On quiet days in the café I would come up with ideas for how to bring more customers in such as running a community art competition or encouraging art groups to meet there. In doing this I realised I wanted a creative career. I’d studied art at college but found that I didn’t thrive in formal education environments and although I’ve always enjoyed doing art, I realised I enjoyed encouraging other people to make art more. Back then I had no idea just how many other creative jobs there are out there beyond being an artist. Volunteering at an art gallery in Brighton helped me realise gallery education was a route that really excited me. I remember hoping that it wasn’t too late to start a career, and that I wouldn’t have to go to uni. When I was applying for apprenticeships, the role at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth stood out to me because it was a really varied job with a mixture of hands-on work in the community, and administrative tasks.

So in 2018, aged 21, I began a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Community Arts Administration through Artswork, taking on the role of Learning & Digital Arts Apprentice at Aspex. Here I took my first steps in building a career for myself. Upon finishing this training I was then given the opportunity to do a Level 3 Events Assistant Apprenticeship again with Artswork as my training provider and Aspex as my employer.

Throughout both apprenticeships, I have been given so many training and development opportunities. Aspex has supported my goals from start to finish and beyond, allowing me to have a say in what we do, and even providing opportunities to contribute to organisational policy & procedure. They truly care about including young people’s voices in their programme, and supporting people at the start of their career, and I have been fortunate enough to have been taught and guided by incredible colleagues and been a part of an exemplary arts organisation.

Image of Harriet talking to a man as they admire a patchwork quilted piece of art hung on a gallery wall.

Artswork’s Apprenticeship programmes are designed thoughtfully with a focus on you and where you want to go, with great expertise on working in the creative industries. You are given the opportunity to follow your own path based on your personal interests, goals, and relevance to your specific organisation, whilst ensuring you have a well-rounded view of the industry and are up to date with important issues.

My experience of Artswork has been wholly positive. The apprenticeship team has helped me to figure out what I’m good at, what I am passionate about, and have challenged me to learn more and be my best. They have never missed an opportunity to remind me of my strengths, and they have consistently demonstrated a high level of professionalism, kindness and respect.

I can’t praise both Aspex and Artwork enough for the opportunities and support they’ve given me, and it’s been amazing to recognise the development in myself as I write this.

I’ve been able to achieve things that I didn’t think were possible for me. I’ve gained a career, and the tools I need to take it forward and thrive in the arts and cultural industry.

I would encourage anyone who is considering a creative career to look into creative apprenticeships and Kickstart roles, but also to keep an eye out for other opportunities in the sector by signing up to newsletters and following creative organisations social media accounts.

My advice would be to ask as many questions as you can. If you see something that catches your interest, see if there’s someone you can talk to about it. Don’t be afraid of not understanding parts of the role, the organisation, or the industry. If an organisation is advertising an entry level position, they don’t expect you to already know everything. Chances are they are trying to open up pathways for people just like you.

If you’re just starting out, I’d encourage you to take all the opportunities you’re offered and learn from anyone who will teach you. You don’t always know when you’re going to discover a new interest, and you’ll get the most out of the experience the more you get stuck in.

It’s also important to remember that you’ve got a lot to offer. Contribute to meetings, especially if you are asked for your input, do some research and speak confidently from your own experience because the diversity of opinion, interest and experience is valuable and essential in shaping the future of the creative industries.

If, like Harriet, college and university isn’t the best route for you, visit the government’s Find an Apprenticeship site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you or keep a look out on our Opportunities page for apprenticeship opportunities at/with Artswork.



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