My apprenticeship story: Sam Dixon-French, JPI Media

National Apprenticeship Week is taking place between the 4th and 8th of March, and the NCTJ is proud to support the campaign. Each day throughout the week, we will be sharing first-hand accounts from apprentices and employers to demonstrate how apprenticeships work for them.

Sam Dixon-French, apprentice with JPI Media and Highbury College, shares his story below:

Starting a journalism apprenticeship was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s hard work and throws you in at the deep end but it is immensely rewarding. A buzzing newsroom full of reporters and editors is a hive of activity and an invaluable resource for a new journalist. You can be taught by some of the best lecturers in the business but there is no substitute for real world, full time work experience.

I’ve always enjoyed writing but had never found an outlet for it. After leaving college I spent a few years working in sales for a bicycle distributor before looking at a career change. I realised a higher level qualification of some description would be useful but knew I had no desire to go to university or return to full time education.

I started browsing for apprenticeships and stumbled onto the JPI Media scheme on my local newspaper’s website. Looking at the job description it seemed perfect. It would make the best use of my existing skills but allow me to build on them while gaining an industry standard qualification.

Each week I spend four days in the newsroom and one day doing classroom-based training at Highbury College. The college days are excellent as the topics we cover directly relate to my role in the newsroom and give me the skills to tackle anything I come across.

A typical day for me involves writing eye-catching, compelling stories which appeal to our readers both online and in print. I use contacts on my patch along with social media and press releases to pick topics which I know matter to our readers. I’m based on the community team for the West Sussex County Times but I also take on breaking news stories. Nothing beats that adrenaline rush as you race to get an exclusive story online.

The apprenticeship scheme has improved my career prospects without question. Not only have I made numerous industry connections but the opportunity to gain experience is second to none. Since the scheme began in January 2018 I have interviewed Romesh Ranganathan, covered the launch of a new Rolls-Royce and even reported on the first royal visit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Sussex. The editors and your colleagues continually push you to improve and to challenge yourself, I’ve even secured a week’s placement at national newspaper the i in June.

The apprenticeship scheme has given me a huge amount both in terms of career and personal development but I like to think I benefit the newsroom too. I believe I have helped the paper to attract new audiences and written stories which appeal to people who may not traditionally have turned to their local newspaper.

If you are considering applying for a journalism apprenticeship then I would say go for it. It offers so many incredible opportunities and is a fantastic way to gain an industry standard qualification, with no tuition fees while getting paid at the same time. Why wouldn’t you?