Widening Employment Opportunities for Young People


Getting Into Work: Providing Support For Today’s Youth

By introducing their pre-apprenticeship programme, Imogen Gray from Cockpit Arts emphasises the importance of helping young people to get a foot on the career ladder.

Paying a fair wage — employing young people

Unpaid internships used to be commonplace in the creative industries but thanks to CC Skills’ “Creative Employment Programme“, companies are being encouraged to create paid internships and apprenticeships. The scheme, which started in 2013, has helped many organisations to take on new employees and it has created many more opportunities for young people wishing to pursue a creative career. The programme provides companies with grants of £1500-£2500 towards the cost of taking on a young person aged 16–24 over 6-12 months.

Although this is a great scheme (sadly one which is coming to an end in March 2016), there are still huge hurdles that micro businesses and sole traders have had to overcome before taking on employees, from: how do I create a job description to how do I set up a payroll?

What is Cockpit Arts?

Cockpit Arts is a business incubator and, as such, was in a position to provide intensive wrap around support for employers. Cockpit Arts successfully piloted a consortium approach to allow micro businesses to take on their first employee, either by taking someone full-time or sharing interns to halve the cost and resources needed. By the end of this year Cockpit will have supported 17 Cockpit Arts based businesses to take on 13 employees, as well as creating 2 additional roles in the Cockpit Arts office.

The scheme has been hugely successful and incredibly rewarding; we have learnt a lot about employing young people and passed on this knowledge through creating toolkits, working with partner organisations and delivering workshops. In fact, the programme went so well that we have been looking for opportunities to take it further, in order to reach more people and create more, long-lasting opportunities.


Our learning over the past two years has been that 6-month opportunities are often not long enough for the positions to become financially sustainable. Furthermore, the employee was not usually offered a full-time position at the end of the internship. We believe that the more viable option for a micro business is to take on a lower skilled Apprentice over a 12-month programme. This allows the employer to ‘grow their own’ by nurturing that young person over 12 months and developing their natural talent. However, the problem is that many employers are nervous about taking on an Apprentice (it’s a 12 month commitment that you can’t easily back out of) and often the employee has less formal education and little previous work experience.

As a way of overcoming these barriers Cockpit Arts are now piloting a Pre-Apprenticeship programme. It is designed to provide young people with no prior experience or qualifications with the opportunity to gain valuable hands on experience before competing for a 12-month Apprenticeship. Developed in partnership with our local college and Job Centre Plus, the Cockpit Arts Traineeship and Apprenticeship Programme for 18-24 year olds will be the first of its kind in the contemporary craft sector, offering opportunities to learn on the job in a small craft business. Our aim is to develop skills in business administration, operations and marketing, which the participants will need in order to compete for jobs in the creative industries. They will all be non-graduates without any previous work experience and the wage will be adult national wage (£6.70), rather than the current Apprenticeship wage (£3.30), as this is often a huge barrier to many young people living in London.

Cockpit Arts has been keen to establish an employment programme that not only develops the capacity of first time craft employers to offer sustainable employment, but also changes the mind-set and culture in the sector, reducing the barrier to employing others and thus, widens employment opportunities over the long term.

What next?

We will be piloting the Pre-Apprenticeship scheme from the 2 November for 6 weeks and the cohort of Apprentices will be starting in January 2016. If you would like to know more please do not hesitate to contact me imogen@cockpitarts.com or sign up for our industry insights newsletter.

Written by:

Imogen Gray Cockpit Arts

Imogen Gray

Business Information Manager, Cockpit Arts

Supporting Micro Creative Businesses

Imogen is currently the Business Information Manager at Cockpit Arts and is the first point of contact for studio holders and non-studio holder queries relating to business and professional development, providing information, advice and guidance. Imogen also manages the Cockpit Arts Creative Employment Programme, enabling craft business owners to recruit paid apprentices and interns. Imogen has previously worked for Arts Council England and Contemporary Applied Arts.


Image Credits: All images courtesy of Creative Commons licence. Top: GotCredit. www.gotcredit.com; Lower: unsplash.com.

Author: Amelia Glean

Share This Post On