As promised in the last post here is the interview with Janelle James, creative apprentice at Point Blank conducted by CC Skills.


Janelle, thanks for leaving your busy apprenticeship for a bit to answer some questions for me.
So tell me a bit about yourself, what were you doing before your Apprenticeship?

I was at barking college on a performing arts BTEC and I was on the student council there, but I didn’t enjoy the course too much.

Outside of that I was working in a youth club helping out with the young people who dropped by.

So how did you find out about the point blank apps and why did it interest you?

My mum found out about it and told me, I liked the sound of it, so I applied and got it. I was interested because I like working with young people like I did at the youth club, this gave me the opportunity to do that.

So what did you know about Apprenticeships before you started?

I didn’t know anything about them, I didn’t know they existed. I have recommended them to my friends and now all my friends want to do apprenticeships too, they keep asking can you get me one of them.

What do you enjoy about being an apprentice, how is it different to college?

I feel like I fit in at point blank, at college people would mess around and you couldn’t get work done, here it’s different. People are more mature.

So tell me what you have been doing so far?

Victoria my mentor has been teaching me key skills and I also have a work log that I am about to start work on. Sometimes I work in the office here at point blank, but I am out with the tutors too. I spent two weeks working alongside tutors at the Petchey Academy assisting with 14-16 year olds working on projects, I like doing that. I have also been working on a business proposal in my time at college.

sounds very interesting, what is your business idea?

The idea is a talent show, people audition and then they are given say for example a 1 week singing course by point blank and then at the end of the week they have to perform to an audience and the best singer wins a scholarship with point blank. It could be other things other than singing too.

So what do you hope your Apprenticeship will do for you?

I hope they keep me on at point blank (laughs). I know that with the variety of experience I get from the work I am doing; it will help me get good references for the next job. I want to be a drama teacher; set up my own school and help those who want to do drama get over the fear of going on the stage. No one really helped me overcome it I just had to suck it in they said but I am sure there must be techniques to deal with it; I want to help people through that.

Well it’s clear you like helping people so you sound like just the person to start up that school.

I’m interested to know, why do you think employers should take on apprentices, what do they get from it?

Its good for the people who work at the company, they get to mentor and train young people and teach them their skills, new skills. They can teach them about the business too. On the business side it’s good for other companies to see that they are open minded and willing to do something different and take risks. It shows they are a progressive company; they aren’t just employing people in the same way all the time. They get young people straight out of school or college who have their ideas fresh in their head and can share these with their employer.


Point Blank Learning recently made the decision to take on two young employees through the Creative Apprenticeship initiative introduced by Creative & Cultural Skills. This video explains what they are all about.

The following is an interview with Point Blank CEO Rob Cowan conducted by CC Skills:

rob cowan

As an employer why did you get involved with the Creative Apprenticeship?

We thought Point Blank had something to offer, we already deliver creative and media activities. We thought it would be a good opportunity to offer something to young people that is also part of what we are about, engaging young people in the music industry. To be honest this was an experiment for us, we weren’t sure how it would work. We are starting small, taking 2 Apprentices each year, dipping our toe in the water to see how it works out.

It’s an interesting scheme and as our work involves back office work and front line delivery with people out in the field teaching, this made us well placed to help deliver the Apprenticeship working with City and Islington College. I thought this was a good fit with the work we currently do at point blank. It is working out really well and later you can speak to the Apprentice who will tell you whether it is. The Apprentices are certainly useful for us, obviously we are careful about what we ask them to do as they are young and you have to bear that in mind. One of our apprentices in 17 and this is the first job she has done.

What area is your apprentice working in?

Community arts. We felt with our community team that it was doable. if the apprentices were just based in the office it wouldn’t work but we have our tutors who work out in the community and our apprentices can be part of that and they can get a positive experience from that. They do have some time in the office too and also time at college where they are able to access the other side of point blank, which is our music courses we offer, apprentices can take these for free. Being out there with the tutors and assisting with work, well they are being asked to learn and able to see first hand how it works. All the work that goes on here is the behind the scenes work, what is important is what goes on out there as a result of all that work, what the learners get essentially. I think it’s really important that they see that and experience that, they get a rounded experience

and a broad experience?

Yes absolutely and hopefully that is valuable.

I think that’s the key thing about the apprenticeship they are learning from the people doing the fundraising in the office and likewise those doing the work out their in the community with young people. they see both sides of the coin.

Yes absolutely and as a SME, it’s an extra pair of hands that can help us. Through the other work we do, we have also been able to offer additional one off paid work opportunities.

So how did you go about employing your Apprentices Rob?

Both apprentices were interviewed by me and its case of getting the right people that fit the business. They had to fill in an application form and I only responded to the ones that had what I was looking for, mainly young people with passion who could express themselves. Our two apprentices were interested in the arts and had been involved in the arts despite their young age. When I interviewed them they had the right attitude and I liked them as people so I took them on.

With your experience to date and your knowledge of apprenticeships what do you think are the barriers to employers taking on apprentices? As a small business?

The challenges are delivering all the different components of the apprenticeship, we wouldn’t be able to do that without a partner like City and Islington who are able to deliver the more theoretical parts that we aren’t able to. We can offer the practical experience, the employment. We could still take on an apprentice but they would have been a point blank apprentice, not a formal Creative Apprenticeship.

We received funding from Islington local authority to employ some young people currently in the NEET category. Without money we couldn’t do it, it would be a luxury for a small business like us and we couldn’t find finance to do it. I definitely don’t think we would have got involved.

Is it fair to say that for a small business like Point Blank funding can kickstart your involvement in the apprenticeship and perhaps allow you to offer more opportunities?

Absolutely, we have had interns who are now part of our staff, they worked with us for 3 months, when they started that wasn’t expected or known that they would stay with us. Maybe something will be there for these apprentices but it’s difficult to tell, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

The Apprentices are learning lots and even if we cant take them on, I cant imagine they would go back into the NEET category, not just in terms of the skills they have but also their growth as people, their increased confidence and skills when dealing with people is invaluable to employers.

It’s often the transferable skills that are more important that the specific job related ones. We have a young man who was with us and went onto university, he said himself he would not have done that had he not been here. His horizons were broadened he had to deal with different types of people, people who had different live experiences to him; this raised his aspirations and led him to university.

What would encourage more employers to get involved?

Money, I am afraid that it is all down to money.

What do you as a business get out of taking on an apprentice?

An apprentice that is employed with you for a year understands what you do as a company therefore when you need something done, they know where that work fits in in the grand scheme of things. Our Apprentices spend 1 day with City and Islington and then they are out with the tutors in the community, so they know the ethos of the company, they have a broader knowledge about the company as they live and breathe the company out in the field with the tutors.

The length of time is beneficial also as they can really embed themselves in the company.

In the next blog post you will be able to read CC Skills’ interview with one of Point Blank’s apprentices, Jannelle James.