Apprentices Speak: From Apprenticeship to Disney

Once Upon A Time from An Apprenticeship to Disney

Getting a top position in a large company can take decades. Hard work, dedication, setbacks and a little bit of luck are often the ingredients for success. Quite often those initial stages of a career can dictate what happens in the future.

Creative Alliance are a training provider that specialise in creative, digital and marketing apprenticeships and part of what we do is help people nurture and forge their career in the creative, cultural and digital sector. With 85% of our apprenticeships resulting in a full-time role with a company or the movement to further education, we have hundreds of success stories of helping people forging their career. But the story of Tom Veasey going from an apprenticeship to Disney is a special one.

Tom Veasey from Coventry, at the age of 24, is working as a senior ship wide technician in audio for Disney Cruise lines – one of the fastest rises in Disney’s history for a technician. And he started as an apprentice with Creative Alliance at his local school’s theatre – the first stepping stone to getting his job with Disney. To get a true insight into the story we spoke to Tom and Simon Veasey (Tom’s Father) about his journey.

Simon was an incredibly open and chatty interviewee who you could tell was immensely proud of his son’s achievement and has no doubt that the apprenticeship gave Tom the foundation for his sky-rocketing career.

Tom was understandably humble about his achievement but spoke openly about his career.

First question for Simon was to look at his understanding of apprenticeships as a parent:

SIMON “Well firstly I was an apprentice, except back then it was 5 years long. I knew the modern apprenticeships were much shorter but that was about as much I knew. I also didn’t know that they were available for Toms chosen field (Audio Technician).”

We spoke about Tom’s journey into his first role in the apprenticeship…

SIMON “Tom and I were discussing University, but Tom was not keen. He and another student were volunteering at their school (Blue Coats Church of England school) and the headmaster had called and spoken about an apprenticeship for Tom. This felt like a good fit for Tom and as he wasn’t keen on University – so Tom accepted the offer”

Simon was obviously very passionate about Tom’s success and was keen to talk more about Tom’s career and his support the apprenticeship programme.

SIMON “The apprenticeship got Tom working with a very diverse range of people, not his peers, but people with a range of skills. This meant that his skills and knowledge grew, and his confidence grew also. Not just in technical skills but also in communication. Seeing that transformation from someone who was a true techy moving into someone who could communicate professionally was a key stone for him moving to his role with Disney.”

On speaking with Tom he reiterated this point too. Tom spoke about what the apprenticeship had given him.

TOM “Working with lots of different technical people at my apprenticeship really helped me. There were the skills in working with equipment, and not just modern equipment but also older equipment and older more traditional skills which would benefit me hugely in the future as not all places have the best equipment.  It also helped me with my confidence in communicating, my boss at Blue Coat (School) actually made me answer phone calls, he put the phone on my desk and it pushed me into somewhere I was not initially comfortable with. But as my confidence grew I was working with suppliers who wanted to come to the theatre, to musicians, technicians and even selling the theatres services. This was real life experience.”

We then talked about the support Creative Alliance had provided throughout the apprenticeship.

TOM “My assessor was incredibly knowledgeable about the industry, answering any queries I had and signposting me to resources about technology, information and people I needed. The structure of the course was really varied. I did a Level 3 apprenticeship in Technical Theatre focussing on sound. The way the course was delivered meant that I had to look at different elements of my role, like looking at stage management and lighting even though that wasn’t my main focus. What this meant is I had that additional knowledge of different elements of managing a theatre and this I feel has given me the edge for my career moving forward. Going from a school to the largest entertainment company in the world having a full range of experience helps enormously”

But what about life beyond his apprenticeship?

SIMON “Tom worked for the school for a few years after he was offered a full-time role. Which in itself was great. Tom did come home one day and say there had been talks of redundancies at the school. It had troubled him, and he was looking at some freelance work. He had already done some work for festivals and other events but nothing major. Tom always got the Stage magazine and came down one day saying there was a job advert for a general technician for the Disney cruise lines. I asked where it was based, and he said it was in Florida. I initially said you don’t even leave your room let alone travel to Florida. But he seemed very keen on it so I supported him – what’s the harm?

Together we worked on the application and I made sure all his experience was on there. We didn’t hear anything for a few weeks and then Tom got a call to say that they felt he was too experienced for the general technician role, but they wanted to meet him for a more senior role. We went to Hammersmith and Tom was interviewed by the head of tech and they really drilled him for his technical knowledge. Then not long after he was offered the job. He was flown to Florida and started his work on the ship. They said that 2,500 people had applied for the job.”

Simon went on to say how Tom had been promoted incredibly quickly and now sits as Senior Ship Wide technician in Audio – managing the all audio on the ship, all musicians, audio team and ensuring the quality that Disney expect.  Tom went on to say that in regard to the cruise lines he is right at the top now with only one position above him. He has changed ship and recently worked in Alaska.

TOM “For the creative sector I believe that apprenticeships really are the best way to get into the industry. Getting contacts, learning the craft with people who know it rather than with people your own age, learning the old skills as well as the new helps you develop further and you earn money as well. You learn and earn.”

This is a wonderful story of someone who worked very hard with the opportunities he was given. You do not move up without putting in graft. Tom is not alone with his story and there are many young people who have forged their career in the Creative industries through a Creative Alliance apprenticeship. With apprenticeships in Theatre, Digital Marketing, Design, Film, Radio and Web design and more and more companies posting vacancies with Creative Alliance is it time for you or your children to seek a career in the creative, digital or marketing world.