Posts Tagged ‘training’

It was 2005 and I felt like I had to do it. I wasn’t forced, but the culture of the previous several years, for good or for bad, saw moderately intelligent 18 year-olds follow the natural and somewhat expected path to university. Like so many of my peers I would choose to apply to an institution, to a course that I had not put a lot of previous thought in to and that rather explains where I am today. It is my fault, there’s no denying that, but now I have reached an age where the decisions made by my teenage self matter, I can’t help but think there wasn’t enough emphasis put on how seriously I should have taken it all.

While scrolling through university courses, my mother stressed the idea that I should apply for a course that provides training. This was a novel idea, but one that had never really been brought to my attention, not by teachers/career counsellors/or anyone else who may have potentially held influence in my life, so the concept was fleeting. I was never going to be a lawyer, and couldn’t bare the thought that people would put their trust in me if I trained to be a doctor, but what training was there that built upon my pre-existing talents? For years I had loved acting, music and writing; communicating in general, I felt, could be beautiful.

Although I built up a reputation as a performer throughout school, I didn’t always enjoy the attention that came with it, and with the lone voice of my mater easily ignored and no secondary voice to support her, I opted to apply for an enjoyable course in the remaining form of communication I enjoyed.

2009 arrived, and after three informative, educating and entertaining years of Creative Writing, I realised my future employment. Working for a newspaper would be the best opportunity continue using my talent in the workplace, but as the year-old recession hit the already struggling environment of journalism, every paper’s in-house training scheme was postponed, and none were willing to take on an untrained, directionless writer, so I looked for work abroad.

Whilst in Prague, working as a tour guide, I answered an advert to write for a website, unpaid, and as there were no other interning placements on the planet, it seemed this was my only chance to gain some work based knowledge. A year later, with experience under my belt and a desire burned on to my brain with a cattle prod stencilled ‘journalism’, I returned home and got a job as a salesman to keep my pockets moderately full while applying for every journalist job advertised.

I remained unsuccessful. Newspapers were not just looking for people with experience, they wanted their upstarts to have training, but by doing a now clearly useless degree, had I missed my chance?

Not if I had anything to do with it.

I applied to do an MA in Journalism, a course that provided elements of training, and thanks to the two years fighting for payslips and paying rent, I approached every lecture with a new level of energy and focus. I impressed so much that I was recruited to write for two academic textbooks before I’d graduated. When it came to applying for jobs after learning shorthand, radio production, news writing, multi-platforms, social mediums, interviewing techniques, law and ethical considerations, I picked up on a sentence that in every job specification I looked at. “The ideal candidate will have passed all their NCTJ exams.”

My course had taught me everything I needed to be a journalist, I had even been recognised in the field of journalism academia. I had done work that most people get good money for, but my course was not affiliated with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). I had not passed exams those in charge deemed necessary to enter the profession.

The training no one had promoted when I was a teenager is haunting. It’s a cloud over my head every time a job is highlighted on my Twitter feed, and it makes me angry with everyone who should have mentioned it throughout my comprehensive education.

Two or three generations before my own, people were required to learn a trade, they were told they had to train in something. My father; he’s a trained carpenter and although companies he’s worked for have gone bust, or he’s faced redundancies over his 40-plus years of work, he’s never been out of a job for long. My mother, trained as a teacher, was only without work when she had my brother and I.

Training is important in everyone single person’s life; why it’s been overlooked for so many years, and why we have sent people to university without them being informed of it’s role in society, is a joke. Journalists graduating university now don’t realise what a bleak future there is for them, and until they discover the importance of the NCTJ before applying to further education, there will be thousands of old hacks unable to work.

I have met people who have worked since 15 and reach the age of 65 only to be struck with cancer, dementia or worse, die. Some people who have worked all their lives fall apart from working too hard before getting a chance to enjoy their retirement. One thing I can say is that I’ve enjoyed my youth. I’ve travelled, worked abroad, spent three years in education learning how to enjoy the effects of alcohol, and now, I am a highly talented journalist yet an officially untrained twentysomething in fear that I might never experience my chosen profession. When I read such stories of people in my situation declaring bankruptcy before having a chance to earn any money or worse still, committing suicide thanks to their inability to secure full time work and pay off their student debts and career development loans, it further demonstrates the importance of emphasising training from a young age, and perhaps listening to your mother more often.

If anyone requires a very talented, but unqualified journalist, please contact me on the details enclosed and we can work on fixing society together.
Yours Sincerely,
Huw L. Hopkins

Read Full Post »

For two weeks I would take part in two vastly different types of work experience. Week one would be at a very popular, national car magazine and the second placement would take place in a small local newspaper.This diary captures the experiences of a professional work environment for the first time as a journalist in busy London capital and a sleepy Midland city.

The first week I stayed in London with a friend.


On the fourth day God created travel.

Getting to work is getting easy but despite the night in, I’m beginning to get rather tired of long hours travelling across London. If I ever get a job here, I will have to get an apartment one or two stops away on the tube. But it is easy.

To begin the day I was given the task of doing some work for the new website. All the content has to be re-uploaded before the site goes live and I had the pleasurable role of attaching images to stories one-by-one to ensure that they all fit correctly on to the page. A job I imagine most work experience bums have to sit through at some point.

After an hour or so of doing this, I was informed by one of the photographers that I would be helping him on a photo shoot. This meant I got to drive…

The two cars in particular were an original and the latest version of the BMW 3-series 320. Two pretty cool cars, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t give a damn about them.

We drove down to a place in Surrey where they film lots of things for movies and TV and we cheekily parked round the back to do some shooting. I first drove in the 2012 model, which is a diesel sport, and it was pretty incredible. It was so comfortable and the first thing I noticed was that the digital mph number was reflected on to the windscreen, directly where your eye points when looking at the road. This I thought is a must for every car, its so simple but so important to not have to take your eyes off the road.

The car was actually owned by the photographer himself and before I got in it, he called it his ‘baby’. I have never been more nervous driving a car. The bonnet was HUGE, much bigger than I’d ever driven before and I used to drive estate cars for a living as a travelling salesman. I was terrified driving past parked cars on the road or on narrow streets in case I clipped something going past.

Once we arrived at the destination the photographer set up and I was told to hold the flash while he did his thing. I felt like a bit of a tool standing there just holding a box and a light but these are the type of exciting things a work experience person gets to do I guess.

He then needed a few driving shots of the car and I wasn’t aware that the majority of moving photo shoots for cars in magazines are simply done on a roundabout. Honestly, the person driving the car just keeps driving in a circle and it’s the photographer that makes it look like it’s in different place. Top Gear doesn’t actually go to Vietnam or the North Pole, its all camera work*.

After taking plenty of images we parted ways. At this point I had to return the classic BMW back to the office and the photographer was going somewhere else to shoot in the midlands. The drive was beautiful and although the car lacked an impressive top speed, the fundamentals of the car were there. I will upload a story about that soon.

I returned back the apartment to throw on a suit and return out for the evening. The Oxford & Cambridge Club was my destination and to enter you had to wear a tie and suit jacket. The building was along Pall Mall, a beautiful Dickensian block where the rooms feature ceilings higher than some cliffs. After touring around through each room, upstairs, downstairs, every secret doorway made to look like a bookshelf, we spread out across 3 couches in one room, to fill less than 1% of it, and order some tea and scones. While we discussed politics, the budget and other things that floated in the stratosphere above my head I noticed a crusty old Oxbridge fellow sitting across the room from us reading a book titled ‘Blogging for Dummies’, I thought “right on, old dude, gowan wid yor bad self”.

At this point we headed for food in China Town where the crispy duck was cooked on the bone and removed from it right in front of you. The chow mein was one of the better ones I’d tasted and they served lychee juice, my favourite. A particular apt note was the choice of music this very traditional eastern restaurant played: American Country.

The evening was slightly dampened by the big city slickers on the table next to us. Three gentleman who thought they belonged on a pedestal, all close to the age of forty, all trying to one-up each other on ‘the chick they banged last night’. They were pathetic, lonely people who spent the whole night over-compensating for their miserable lives. “Welcome to London” I thought.



*This may be factually incorrect.

Read Full Post »