Tony Hall - 'You're Hired' BBC Apprenticeship event

Date: 03.03.2014     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.53
Category: Corporate
Speech given by Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, at the 'You're Hired' apprenticeship event on Monday 3 March 2014.

Welcome everyone.  It’s great to see our industry come together like this – and I’m delighted so many of our apprentices are joining in today.   

I’m sure, like me, you’ll have been really impressed with the conversations you’ve just had with them.  And, I hope you’re now linked up to some seriously bright young talent!

I’m passionate about giving everyone the opportunity to shine in our industry.   

But I’m also worried – and I know many of you are too – that if you have the right contacts – or perhaps you can afford to work for free for a while - you have a better chance of getting into our profession.

That’s not right. And it’s got to change.

We need a broadcasting industry open to all the talents our country has to offer – and the BBC needs to lead the way in helping to make that possible.

I want us to invest in young people from the broadest possible range of backgrounds and communities across the UK – from Birkenhead, to Hartlepool and Hackney.

And, when you meet our gifted apprentices – it’s easy to see why.  I spent some time with Andrew Efah and Hayley Sterling last week - two smart, creative and ambitious members of staff. Just 18 months after joining us as apprentices, Hayley’s finding new talent in BBC Comedy – and Andrew’s won two commissions with CBBC in Salford. That’s great news.

My thanks to our mentors, to Claire Paul, our Academy team – and our partners.  Your work really matters.  Bringing everybody in – giving them a platform to show what they can achieve - is something I’ve always believed in. It’s a profoundly democratic thing to do.

When I was in the arts, I did a lot with apprenticeships. At the Royal Opera House we opened our doors to new and different talent in Thurrock.  And, what we started, has grown into something very special: 

  • Back-stage talent: Craft skills matter hugely – and the scheme’s brought together new teams of scenic artists, carpenters, draughtsman and metalworkers – all highly-skilled
  • The team’s doing lots more besides to nurture creative and cultural skills – reaching out to schools, the local community and the wider arts world
  • By the time I’d left the Opera House, more than 40,000 people had joined in

The BBC – the British Broadcasting Corporation – is here to represent everyone.

Everyone pays for the licence fee – and we’ve got to be more reflective of the audiences who are watching and listening to our programmes.

To excel at what we do, it’s really important that we look and feel like modern Britain.  That’s why we need to open our doors to talented people from all backgrounds – from all classes – and from all parts of our country. 

We want to find people with real potential – and develop it to the full.

Every one of our apprentices here today has a story to tell.  They offer something that’s different, that’s energising – something that will make our programmes bolder, and better.

There are few things more important to our future than embracing this talent.

It’s business critical.

It matters to all of us – because our industry thrives on creativity. On different ideas – and new perspectives.    

A brilliant colleague – Cheryl Varley - told me her story the other day. She started here 12 years ago – a working class mum from Toxteth, full of initiative and talent. She’s produced some seriously impressive investigations for us – but, for years, she also had to listen to people tell her that, if she wants to succeed here, she’ll need to blend in. And Cheryl’s response? Well, she’d walk in the next day dressed in tracksuit, trainers – and the biggest loop earrings she could find! I’m so glad she did that.

And, let me be clear to all our apprentices in the theatre today, if you want to succeed in the BBC - you need to stand out - but be yourselves. That’s because I believe diverse teams make better programmes – they develop smarter products. And, I’m not just talking about diverse skills or talent here. I mean people coming together from different backgrounds – with different attitudes and experiences.

When I came back to the BBC, we had just 37 apprentices across the organisation. That wasn’t good enough - and we’ve worked really hard over the last few months to raise our ambition:

  • We’ve launched a new apprenticeship scheme across local radio, giving an opportunity to 45 young people to work for their local BBC – in their hometown. Applications open in April
  • We’ve launched a brand-new three-year apprenticeship in technology.  And we’re very excited about its potential. It’s a really stretching qualification we designed as an industry – the BBC, ITV, Ch4, Arqiva and Red Bee Media all working together
  • We’re growing the next generation of production managers – a critical skills gap for all of us – and we’ll be working with some of you to find placements across the industry

I’m delighted to tell you that the hard work is paying off.

Our apprentices are working right at the heart of our production, engineering and business teams.  And, they’re doing incredibly well. 

The young talent emerging from our latest production scheme was so impressive – that all of them went straight into jobs. They’ve now got their foot on the first run of the career ladder – competing head-to-head with graduates.  So the quality is exceptional!

And, there’s a lot more I want us to do.

I want to open up new areas to the brightest and the best non-graduates our country has to offer, so:

  • Starting in September, there will be a degree level apprenticeship in business skills – nurturing diverse talent in strategy, business affairs, planning, marketing, commerce and innovation
  • Next year, we’re starting a higher level apprenticeship in journalism - tackling head-on the fact that journalism has become the near exclusive preserve of graduates
  • And there will be new opportunities for would-be solicitors to join our legal team

I want us to be ambitious - to open our doors to anyone with the right talent and a passion for what we do.  We want to spot, encourage and develop the broadest range of candidates.

But, the hard truth is that many young people – without a degree – don’t think that we’re interested in them. Sometimes I hear ‘people like me don’t work at the BBC’ – well they do, and they can! And, we’re going to work really hard to reach out to talented people who think they might never stand a chance of working in our industry.

Some really inspiring projects are starting to take shape:  

  • The work we’re launching with the Stephen Lawrence Trust in London is a model we’ll now use across the country. Step-by-step, working in partnership, we’ll build a network of outstanding, diverse talent – ready to compete for and win their place on a BBC apprenticeship
  • And, we’re also announcing today a new partnership with Job Centres. Together, we’ll seek out the very best raw talent for the BBC – opening up our work experience, apprenticeships – and entry level jobs to all the talents the UK has to offer. By the way, we’ll also be advertising BBC opportunities in Job Centres around Britain – to make sure we reach all the talents our country has to offer

In some parts of the BBC, we’re using really innovative ways to identify different kinds of talent. 'Take It On' – an intern scheme on BBC Radio 1 and IXtra – is already having an impact. To apply, the focus is on creativity, attitude and ideas – rather than background, education or formal experience.

We’re applying the same techniques to inspire people to put themselves forward for all our new schemes.

I’ve talked to lots of young people who feel our traditional, one-size-fits-all recruitment is off-putting – and can mean we don’t get the best people applying for wider opportunities with us.  So, we’re going to roll out this new approach to other parts of the BBC.  In a creative organisation, we should be much more creative in how we spot, and promote, talent. 

I said last October that we’d increase the number to 1% of our workforce by the end of 2016. Actually, I can tell you today we’ll meet that target two years early. From this October, we’ll have 170 apprentices working across the BBC – an encouraging first step. But, I’m not satisfied that’s the right figure – and I want us to go further. I’m going to work on a new target – with teams here – and, by the end of the charter period, I want us to do much more.

My ambition for the BBC is simple. I want us to work with you to build an industry that embraces everyone with the talent to succeed. I want us to offer at least as many opportunities for apprentices as we do for graduate trainees – breaking down the perception that only people from particular educational and social backgrounds have the talent to succeed. It isn’t true – it never was!

Thank you.