Work Experience Week at Bristol Old Vic

The Aim

To offer a real-life, practical, work related experience to 25 young people from across Bristol schools that gives a clear overview of working in a theatre, an understanding of theatre-making and practical workshops delivering skills in marketing, front of house management, fundraising and organisational financial responsibility. Young people will have the opportunity to gain a Bronze Arts Award qualification.

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The Objectives

To recruit a wide range of young people from diverse backgrounds and with a broad set of interests through advertising and interview process.

The project builds on a long period of work deepening the theatre's understanding of, and approach to, diversity in the city of Bristol. Bristol Old Vic thinks about diversity in the widest possible sense, from babies to over-25s, from gender to deafness, from ethnicity to autism and they have a well-established education and outreach operation working on the ground with every single one of the 35 wards of Bristol City Council - a hugely mixed, and in many cases, hard-to-reach, population. Additionally, through the restoration of their 18th century building (the oldest working theatre in Britain) and our partnership with the Bristol University and the City Archives, they have now been able to develop the heritage riches of their site - a brilliant pathway to reaching young people in and around Bristol.

To source a strong project team who can inspire and mentor young people through the process.

At the end of 2014, Bristol Old Vic were awarded a Strategic grant and an Exceptional Award, which gave the Company the means to drive through the transformation outlined above. Through this grant they were able to drive new capacity at Senior Management level and five new positions now exist: Executive Producer, Commercial Director, Marketing Director, Development Director and Engagement Director. These five posts compliment the pre-existing roles of Chief Executive, Artistic Director, Finance Director and Production Director. Each of these individuals will be sharing their professional experience and career advice directly with work experience participants through workshops and 1:1 mentoring.

Addressing Social Mobility

Work experience has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of young people. Unfortunately, according to research carried out by Hatcher & Le Gallais in 2008 (Birmingham University: The work experience placements of secondary school students: widening horizons or reproducing social inequality?), all too often work placements tend powerfully to reflect and reproduce patterns of social class inequality with working class kids getting working class placements, and middle class pupils experiencing the benefits of ‘professional placements’.

Work experience is now increasingly essential to securing both university places and graduate jobs, with a 2016 report suggesting employers expect to fill anywhere between a third and half of graduate vacancies with a student who has had previous work experience at their organisation. When over half of placements are found by young people or by their families using largely existing social networks, this can make it increasingly difficult for with those without connections to break into the careers they want.

As an arts organisation, Bristol Old Vic is a highly desirable work placement organisation, and they are often asked to provide ad-hoc work experience weeks for children of associated artists or friends, perpetuating the inequality highlighted above. The Big Work Experience Week proposal directly addresses this, with a targeted response reaching out to young people regardless of their economic or social background. As an organisation which receives funding from Bristol City Council, our strategy aligns closely with the Council’s Corporate Strategy 2017-2022 setting out key commitments, one of which is to ‘deliver work experience and apprenticeships for every young person’.

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The Project to Date

We received over 100 applicants for this programme and shortlisted 35 for interviews. 25 year 10 students have been selected. They are from:

  • Abbeywood School
  • Bradley Stoke Community College
  • Brimsham Green School
  • Bristol Metropolitan Academy
  • Broadoak Mathematics Computing College
  • Clevedon School
  • Cotham School
  • Downend School
  • Fairfield High School
  • John Cabot School
  • Mangotsfield Secondary
  • Merchants’ Academy
  • Oasis Academy John Williams

The group is a made up of a mix of students who have a little or a lot of experience in theatre who are all united by their enthusiasm to learn more about the arts. We look forward to welcoming them into the theatre for a week in July.