Ever dreamed of being a radio show presenter? Ever nursed ambitions to be a video blogger? A journalist? A jingle composer? If pursuing a career in any branch of the media or the creative industries appeals, then the Bauer Academy’s free, two-day courses in Newtownards, which run until the end of March, may just provide that vital first stepping stone.
As the name suggests, the Bauer Academy’s Step Inside courses offer participants an insiders’ guide to all facets of media production. Radio presenting, sound production, editing, writing, interviewing, script-writing, advertising and sonic logos – amongst many other areas – are all covered by experts in the various fields. The Bauer Academy? Admittedly, to many it might not be a familiar name, but its parent company, Bauer Media, is one of Europe’s media behemoths, with leading brands such as Downtown Radio, Cool FM, Kiss FM and Absolute Radio amongst the many radio stations under its umbrella, not to mention trailblazing music magazines Mojo, Q and Kerrang!
This is a powerful indicator of the level of insight, expertise and passion that the Bauer Academy’s two-day courses in Newtownards will impart to eager participants. What sets the Bauer Academy’s courses apart from other media courses is the nexus it forges between education, business and innovation.
‘The Bauer Academy is based within all of our brands,’ explains David Corscadden, Head of Partnerships. ‘We believe that to learn a craft for employment you need to be working within the industry, so we try to position all our teaching and all out learning within the industry. That’s where we start from.’
The Bauer Academy operates right across the UK, but this is the first time it has run courses in Northern Ireland. The courses are open to anyone aged seventeen and above. ‘We try and create a space where people can be exposed to all the elements of a working environment in a controlled and directed way,’ Corscadden expands. ‘We have academics and industry professionals combining to produce platforms for young people, and older people – we’re not limited by age – to engage in the industry and find out how it works for them.’
More than merely providing an eye-opener for those curious to better understand the creative industries, the Bauer Academy’s courses, significantly, serve as a potential recruiting tool for Bauer Media.
‘The Bauer Academy is primarily designed, and let’s be upfront about it,” says Corscadden candidly, ‘to try and find people for ourselves, to find the right talent, open the door and let them in.’ Corscadden is also very clear about the sort of qualities that the Bauer Academy is looking for in a potential employee. ‘What we need is someone who is presenting the right attitude, the right ideas and who is open to being mentored rather than taught,’ Corscadden explains. ‘They learn the skills on the job.’ Whilst Corscadden recognizes the importance of a basic educational background, it’s clear that enthusiasm, personality and innovative thinking are also highly prized in potential employees by Bauer Media.
Funded by the governmental body The Department of Communities, the Bauer Academy’s courses are the fruit of an ongoing dialogue. ‘The Department of Communities has been very generous in its support for this particular program, allowing us to use the available infrastructure,’ Corscadden explains. ‘We’ve been talking to the civil servants at The Department of Communities for some time and we came to the conclusion that for people wishing to get into the creative sector, the media sector, whatever you want to call it, the bar always seems to be set quite high, at degree level and above.
‘But through their research and our experience we realised that there is a plethora of young and older people who have the skills but just don’t have the qualifications, the experience or the understanding of how it works. We realized there was a gap in the market.’ The Bauer Academy’s courses are an entrée into the skills and personal qualities needed to succeed in the creative industries. ‘We’re able to give them that insight,’ says Corscadden, ‘and then they can make informed decisions. Very few other places offer this opportunity and you don’t really get these insights at school or college.’
The short, two-day Bauer Academy courses throughout the UK have turned up some natural talent, some of whom have gone on, Corscadden states, with lightly concealed pride, to work with Bauer brands, while others have secured employment with the likes of the BBC or Sky TV. The Bauer Academy courses in Newtownards, which have attracted several hundred applicants to date, have already turned up a number of potential media talents. ‘We’ve encountered a number of young people in recent weeks on the Step Inside course that have raised our interest,’ affirms Corscadden.
What, essentially, can course participants hope to take away from a two-day Bauer Academy course? ‘In the radio presenting course or the studio skills course they learn about communication and telling stories,’ says Corscadden. ‘It’s all about being able to communicate directly with an audience. We believe that such skills are transferrable when you’re trying to sell a story about who you are to an employer, or how your skills can benefit that business moving forward.’ Sometimes, the forward momentum gained from participation in a Bauer Academy course leads to the realisation of more personal endeavours.
‘In previous courses we’ve seen young people have lightbulb moments,’ Corscadden relates, ‘where they see in the way we do things how they can adopt something and monetize it, such as video blogging, or podcasting, or whatever the genre may be. We hope to give them some direction and if it benefits their career or the route they want to go in then that’s brilliant. That’s why we’re doing this.’ For those dreaming about a career in the creative industries but who perhaps doubt their academic credentials, Corscadden has words of encouragement.
‘My advice to anyone interested in working in this sector is to be open to any opportunity that presents itself to you. Anyone you might meet on your journey could potentially influence your future. Always present yourself in the best light you possibly can.’ Whilst qualifications are important, perhaps just as meaningful in practical terms, Corscadden intimates, are ideas, enthusiasm and self-belief. ‘Many people tend to undervalue the qualities that they have. The sector is open to people who can demonstrate that they have ideas and that they can execute them. The skills you can learn, it’s the ideas that are hard to come by. A great idea is always a great idea,’ says Corscadden. ‘We’re open to people talking to us and working with us.’
The Bauer Academy courses began in February and are set to run until the end of March. The good news, however, is that more courses are in the pipeline. ‘We’ll be updating the dates for courses very soon,’ says Corscadden. ‘If we get oversubscribed we’ll put more courses on and they’re open to everyone.’
For those aspiring to present a radio show or to pull the technical strings behind one, or perhaps for those wishing to run their own independent podcast or video blog, the Bauer Academy courses offer an open door of opportunity. And as Corscadden repeatedly emphasises, enthusiastic, innovative individuals, regardless of age or background, are just what Bauer Media is actively courting. A win-win scenario? Almost certainly.