An apprenticeship scheme which trains the future generation of stage technicians, electricians and other behind the scenes theatre roles has been given a boost, thanks to a £15,000 funding grant from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.

The grant will help Wales Millennium Centre to continue to encourage and promote ‘backstage’ job opportunities within the creative industries by giving apprentices hands-on experience and qualifications across lighting, sound and stagecraft to support the effective delivery of theatre performances.

The Technical Theatre Shared Apprenticeship Programme – run by the Centre in association with Cardiff and Vale College (CAVC) and the Welsh Government – is designed to create new routes into backstage training in theatres through training in practical, work based skills. During the 10-month scheme, apprentices spilt their time between work-based placements in theatres across Wales and training in essential industry skills and knowledge at the Centre.

The pilot scheme was so successful that all eight participants secured employment after the course. Seven gained jobs at theatres across Wales while one set up their own sound-engineering business. All gained a Level 3 in Technical Theatre qualification, and the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) Bronze Award in Theatre Practice, Flying and Electrics.

The most recent cohort of apprentices started last month and will complete the course in July 2018. The organisations involved this year include Wales Millennium Centre, Welsh National Opera (WNO), Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Theatr Clwyd. Plans are also in motion to launch a new Live Events Apprenticeship in theatre event management, marketing and finance.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was set up by the world-famous composer, whose smash hit musicals include ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Evita’. This year, it has awarded a total of £686,133 to 28 projects across the UK and internationally. Championing the breaking down of barriers to engagement in the arts, many of the organisations rewarded this autumn will use their grant to specifically engage young people and those from hard-to-reach and minority backgrounds. This follows on from last December’s Centre Stage report, which urged the theatre profession to take action to improve the pipeline of diverse talent into the arts.

This includes more than £220,000 to support music projects, over £226,000 for theatre initiatives and over £175,000 for projects conserving and promoting heritage. The Foundation’s active grant giving programme has awarded over £18 million since 2010 to support the enhancement of arts education, participation and increasing diversity across the sector.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “One year on from the publication of the Centre Stage report I’m delighted my Foundation is able to fund such a wide range of projects across the UK that help erode the barriers to careers in the arts and heritage for young people from all backgrounds. The report encouraged other funders and philanthropists to do the same. I urge everyone who can to get involved and support the development of diverse talent across our industry.”

Mathew Milsom, Managing Director of Wales Millennium Centre, said: “We are thrilled to see our Technical Theatre Apprenticeship Scheme recognised by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. The Centre shares the Foundation’s aims of breaking down barriers in the arts to ensure such careers are available to young people from all backgrounds.

 “Through the scheme we are discovering and developing the ‘behind the scenes’ theatre talent of the future, looking at new pathways into the industry. The grant will help us ensure we can provide the very best opportunities to our current and future apprentices.”