Sadler’s Wells offers a number of apprenticeships, giving young people the opportunity to access practical training and develop crucial knowledge and skills across different areas of the creative industries. Braham Lyons is a member of our Human Resources team, who joined Sadler’s Wells in October 2014 as an Administrative Apprentice, moving up the ranks to HR Assistant before becoming HR Coordinator in June 2016. We spoke to Braham about what he learned from his apprenticeship, further study and his advice for future Sadler’s Wells apprentices.
What is your background?
I left school and started an English Literature degree at university, but within the first year I knew it wasn’t right for me and I ended up withdrawing from the course entirely. I’ve always loved theatre and the arts so knew I wanted to work in some way in the industry, but I had no idea what to do to get in!
I spent a few years working as a freelance writer, where I undertook a theatre’s writers programme, staged my own play at a fringe theatre, and had a children’s play published but I was still struggling to find regular work and it was really stressful trying to live and work that way, I really needed to find an option for a career rather than odd jobs!
You started out at Sadler’s Wells doing an apprenticeship in HR. How did you find out about this and why did you want to apply for it?
I found the opportunity on Arts Jobs, at the time I was looking for a way to get in to an arts organisation and gain some solid experience to build on, but I had very little relevant experience, so the apprenticeship looked the perfect way to build my experience while learning about the industry. To be honest, I really didn’t know that arts administration or HR roles existed within the arts industry, so it was refreshing to find an entry level opportunity that was open to me and that I had a real chance of getting.
What was your experience of the apprenticeship, for instance the kind of day-to-day tasks and projects you worked on?
The great thing about being an apprentice here was that I was treated exactly as any other member of permanent staff, I was given responsibility and control over my own workload which is something I wasn’t expecting. My main focus was recruitment so assisting with everything from job creation through to coordinating interviews, and job offers which is great because you get to deliver good news, and so many people are genuinely excited to come and work at Sadler’s Wells. I also worked across the administrative functions, so helping staff with benefits, and keeping track of annual leave. As our department is quite small, I got a lot of exposure to wider HR issues and projects as well, so I had a fantastic oversight of HR over the course of the year. All of the academic work was linked into the day to day work I was doing as well, so it felt like I got to apply my learning on a continuous basis.
How do you think that this apprenticeship was helpful in helping you pursue your career?
I really wouldn’t have even known that this was a viable career for me without completing the apprenticeship. It gave me a year of solid work experience, and confidence with a qualification to back it up. I was lucky in that a role within the department became available for me to apply for, but if it hadn’t, I felt that I would have been in a strong position to apply for entry level HR roles in other organisations. With the range of experience I built up, it transformed my confidence and how I felt about my employability and career options.
You went from being an Administrative Apprentice and you’re now the HR Coordinator. What would you say you particularly enjoy about your job and working in HR?
In HR you’re always looking at how things can be improved, and I have a lot of freedom in pursuing projects and initiatives that will help Sadler’s Wells as a whole, it’s great to have that freedom and also the confidence from my Head of Department to work in that way.
With recruitment, I also get to represent Sadler’s Wells which is something I’m really proud of, and the interactions I have with people are often their first impression of the organisation so it’s great when I can help them join in a really positive way.
What have you learnt so far in your time here?
I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my ability, but I have also learned that you can’t do everything by yourself. You need to use other people’s expertise and skills, and really work together to perform at your best.
Another key thing is to not assume and to go for opportunities that intrigue you. Before doing my apprenticeship I thought studying wasn’t for me, but now after completing my apprenticeship and working within HR, I’ve gone back to university as a part time student to obtain a CIPD qualification and I’ve absolutely loved it (couldn’t be more different to the abandoned English degree!), I can’t wait to be qualified, which is something I never thought would happen!
What advice would you give to other young people doing an apprenticeship at Sadler’s Wells?
You will get out whatever you put into your time here, so if you’re interested in something, speak up and get involved with as many different areas as you can. You need to get your work done, but there are so many people with a fantastic range of experiences at Sadler’s Wells that can give you an insight into their career, and different options, so it’s really worth buying them a coffee and picking their brains!