In September 2013, eleven journalism apprentices for regional and national newspapers and broadcasters began their level 3 advanced apprenticeship training at Lambeth College.
Training Matters has been following KM Group’s Dan Wright throughout his apprenticeship, and he has recently been promoted to a trainee reporter position. As he and his fellow apprentices approach the end of their apprenticeship training, Dan and KM Group’s editorial director Ian Carter reflect on the scheme.
Dan Wright, trainee reporter, Whitstable Gazette
Now that my NCTJ apprenticeship with the KM Group is nearing its end, I feel very lucky to have been involved with the scheme.
Since starting as editorial apprentice in September 2013, I’ve developed my skills as a journalist in a superb environment, both in the workplace and at college.
So much so, in January this year I started as trainee reporter on the Whitstable Gazette – allowing me to use the all the skills I’ve gained from my apprenticeship in a permanent position.
Looking back, starting out as an apprentice did provide the perfect grounding.
I moved from office-to-office every three months and worked in all editorial departments at the KM Group.
By doing this, I could get to grips with news, sport, features and multimedia – developing my writing but also personal skills as I moved between offices across the county.
I found it very rewarding to work with the various teams and learn from different individuals, gaining skills I would never get by spending three years at university…
On the college side, passing my 100wpm shorthand early-on in the apprenticeship was crucial.
It got it out of the way and allowed me to focus on other parts of the college course, which fits nicely alongside the on-the-job training.
Shorthand is an essential skill and I now use it daily, from phone interviews to council meetings – it’s invaluable.
It seemed a whole new language when I started learning it but with a bit of persistence it is now a natural skill.
The apprenticeship may involve some long days – every Friday is 12 hours long when you include the train travel into London – but it’s certainly worth it.
I’ve enjoyed some fantastic opportunities, from meeting Prince Andrew twice to visiting Downing Street.
It’s been exciting to see how our website, KentOnline, has developed and as its readership continues to grow, it’s great to be providing some of the content for it.
And by spending three months on the multimedia desk early on in the apprenticeship, I could soon put stories on the web.
It’s all been a fantastic grounding and I am now proud of a strong and varied portfolio. Looking at the apprenticeship’s challenges, the main task is balancing the workload.
You must be enthusiastic and committed as, after a long day at work, coming home and sticking your head in a book for law, public affairs or court reporting revision isn’t the easiest of things.
But it is important and – as I now enter the final few months of my apprenticeship – I’ve passed all my exams to date and am enjoying my new trainee position, working on my own patch.
If you really work at it, you get the rewards and I would certainly recommend the scheme.
The KM Group was delighted to be one of the first publishers to take part in the NCTJ’s apprenticeship scheme, and from our perspective it couldn’t have gone better.
I firmly believe there should be more than one route into journalism and that university courses may not necessarily be the most suitable option for everyone.
We were clear on two things at the start of the process: we would put as much effort into making sure we identified the right candidate for the apprenticeship as we would when recruiting a senior member of staff, and we would not view this as cheap labour.
The two editorial apprentices we now have at the KM were taken on in addition to our existing reporting team, not as cut-price replacements for departing seniors.
We recruited our apprentices Dan Wright and Josie Hannett via intensive assessment centres, where we were looking for the same qualities we would look for in a trainee reporter – news sense, ambition and initiative.
We threw them in at the deep end and they have both flourished – it wasn’t long at all before they were regularly getting bylines.
It was also important to us that we introduced Dan and Josie to as many different parts of the company as we could during their apprenticeship.
Dan started off in our Maidstone office before spending time in most of our seven other offices as well as working with our sport, entertainment and radio teams whilst Josie is about to move to her third office.
By the end of their apprenticeships Dan and Josie will be more familiar with every aspect of the KM than most of their colleagues and we will hopefully have two reporters who have a real affinity with the company.
You can learn more about the NCTJ journalism apprenticeships by watching our video produced by Sky Sports News.