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Olivia Cope couldn’t afford uni, and wanted a career in radio. She got onto the BBC Radio Journalism Apprenticeship scheme last year and, considering applications are now open again, we went to the BBC studios to see her in action. Oh, and to explain why you should totally apply if you’re thinking about going into radio journalism.

Firstly, a bit about the scheme – it’s two years, they’re looking for people without a degree and the six apprentices from last year are working on everything from Desert Island Discs to Saturday Live. Olivia works on Saturday Live, going into Broadcasting House in London from Tuesday – Saturday alongside studying journalism at Lambeth College – something all the apprentices get to do.

Here are six reasons you should totally apply, plus a sneak peek into Olivia’s working week (that rhymes, guys).

You’ll be seriously qualified

After finishing the two year apprenticeship, not only will Olivia have a seriously kick-ass CV, she’ll also have cold, hard certificates to flash when looking for a job. “When you start, you get six or seven weeks of training – you learn about pitching ideas, being non-biased, and how to edit using their software – plus I’m doing an NCTJ journalism course at Lambeth College every Friday as part of the scheme,” Olivia says, as we have a chat after she’s finished recording the Thank You section for Saturday Live. At the end of the apprenticeship, she’ll be trained in radio production, as well as being a fully qualified journalist. “It’s crazy to think that I’m 19 and next year I’ll have all these qualifications and will have worked for the BBC!”

Even though it’s the BBC, it’s not scary!

“The one thing I’d say to people applying is: Don’t be threatened by the fact it’s the BBC! One of the six of us has never even done radio before – she just has loads of passion and motivation. That’s what they’re looking for,” Olivia says. “You’re not allowed to have a university qualification, so they’re teaching you from the bottom up. One thing I’ve learnt is not to worry about constantly asking questions and being like ‘er – what’s that?’ or ‘What does that thing do?’” Olivia had some experience in community radio, and had done four days shadowing the production team at 1Xtra, but they’re not looking for experienced people – they’re looking for people they can teach.

You’ll have made brilliant contacts

The Thank You section of Saturday Live is overseen by Dixie Stewart, a woman who has pretty much produced everything. No, seriously. She worked on You and Yours, The Food Programme, was the deputy editor of Women’s Hour, has made various documentaries and is now the executive producer of Saturday Live. And she’s helping Olivia every step of the way. “My team are really supportive, and if I have any questions, they’re there to help me and give me advice – whether it’s how to open a file, how to pitch ideas or what I should ask when I call a contributor,” she says. While recording the Thank Yous, Dixie gives her a few pointers – useful things to say when on the phone and why some stories need to be re-recorded (from background noise to a stumbling delivery) – which leads nicely onto the next point…

BBC News studio

BBC News studio

You’ll learn a ridiculous amount

In comparison to university, the experience Olivia’s getting at a live radio studio is invaluable. “I love doing the practical stuff – at the start of the training I didn’t know anything about a studio, and now I’m so comfortable in there,” she says. “I like doing research too, because it has made me a better note taker and journalist – but the practical stuff is when you sit back and realise you’re working for the BBC!” Each week she’s picking up new tips on how to get the best stories, how to put people at ease and how to edit everything together – and she’s integral to the process. “Olivia has an incredibly important role – she’s liasing with the contributors and basically putting the show together; people love Radio 4 and it’s so important to  make them comfortable. She holds a critical position,” says Dixie Stewart.

You’ll be helping the BBC – they’re not just helping you

“After our training, we had to produce a podcast on why young people don’t listen to speech radio – and how we can get them interested,” remembers Olivia. It’s all part of the diversification of the Beeb – if you want young listeners, you need to get young people working on the shows. She always wanted to work at Radio 1 or 1Xtra, but now realises how much work and effort goes into speech radio – plus how important her views are in terms of the show’s production. “At first I was nervous, because I thought I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I bring a different viewpoint to a lot of other people working at Radio 4, and everyone’s really interested in my ideas,” she says. “They don’t want you to come in and make tea – they want your help!”

You have the opportunity to work on your own projects

The College of Production site is the BBC’s home of all practical info about getting into radio production, and Olivia’s had the chance to record her own podcast about ethnic diversity in the media industry for it. “I noticed there was an inequality, but didn’t realise how bad it was until I did some research. It’s great that they encouraged me to go for it, rather than shying away from these sorts of issues. They really wanted me to explore it,” she says.

BBC Diary

BBC Diary

Want to find out more about apprenticeships? Come along to one of our free events in London on 9th March, Birmingham on 17th March, Leeds on 19th March or Manchester on 20th March.

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