Natasha Meek is completing an 18-month journalism apprenticeship with Johnston Press, which owns 154 titles including The Star, Sheffield Telegraph and Yorkshire Post.
The 19-year-old is part of the first group of Johnston Press apprentices to be recruited nationally. As part of her training in the workplace, Natasha met the Prime Minister Theresa May when the government announced its review of post 18 education earlier this year..
"Meeting with Theresa May was a wonderful opportunity that I will remember for a very long time. I was very lucky to tell her that apprenticeships are just as valid as the university route - it's simply a matter of which route suits you best,” said Natasha, who is based in Leeds.
Johnston Press’s first cohort of three apprentices spend four days a week in the workplace, in the company’s Leeds or Sheffield newsroom, and one day a week at The Sheffield College’s Hillsborough campus on Livesey Street, Sheffield.
They are completing the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Level 3 and work across 40 Johnston Press titles, covering different parts of the country. The group also comprise Ann Holmes, 18, who studied A Levels, and Laura Andrew, 23, who has a Masters Degree in English Literature.
Ann said: “Working as an apprentice in the media sector has so many advantages. You're straight into the mix of the newsroom seeing how everything works, figuring out the system and, most importantly, learning how to write a story to the taste of a newspaper rather than for a university course."
Laura added: “I used to think that apprenticeships were for people who could not get into university. But that is simply not true. We are learning industry skills including court reporting, news writing and video editing, as well as law and shorthand. I enjoy the fact that no day is the same and that we are building a portfolio."
She continued: It’s a tough industry to break into but the apprenticeship is helping us to understand the opportunities and make contacts. For anyone who has preconceived ideas about apprenticeships, I would ask them to rethink. Apprenticeships can really help you succeed in a career you want. Not to mention that they don’t come with a £60k debt price tag.”
Kath Finlay, Head of Advance Content Hub, Johnston Press, Yorkshire and the North, said: "We're piloting a new way of recruiting and training our journalists of the future using the apprenticeship earn as you learn model. Taking on apprentices allows us to recruit from the communities we serve and helps diversify our workforce too, ensuring that our newsrooms have a great mix of talent.”
She added: “Our three trailblazers are making great progress, contributing to a number of our titles, supporting our news teams and getting the chance to learn the tools of the trade on the job. They've really impressed with their aptitude, enthusiasm and willingness to work hard. Our apprenticeship is tough, but it's very rewarding. The Sheffield College listened to what we wanted as a company as well as what the apprentices need to achieve and it has been a very positive experience."
The Sheffield College is launching a campaign to encourage more 16 to 24-year-olds to apply for 97 live vacancies for National Apprenticeship Week.
National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from March 5th to 9th, celebrates the benefits of apprenticeships and showcases how they work for individuals, employers, communities and the economy.
Andrew Hartley, Commercial Director, The Sheffield College, commented: “Apprenticeships work for employers as well as learners, providing great job prospects and enabling them to earn as they learn and secure a qualification whilst developing skills in the workplace. They provide employers with new talent to help increase productivity, improve business performance and support economic growth.”
The Sheffield College is the largest provider of work-based courses in Sheffield and the surrounding areas and works with around 850 employers on apprenticeship programmes. To find out more, call 0114 2602600 or visit www.sheffcol.ac.uk/employers.