Businesses across the broadcast industry are finding, nurturing and developing the hot young talent of the future through mentoring programmes, as Robert Gray explains.

With former trainees including Mark Thompson and Stephen Merchant, the BBC Production Trainee Scheme has already notched up some famous alumni. Run by BBC Training & Development, it offers anyone with less than a year's production experience an 18-month programme of face-to-face training, online learning and placements on real programmes across the UK, supported by mentoring from a senior BBC manager. The scheme, which had 3,080 applicants last year, looks for those who will generate great ideas and become the star content makers and commissioners of the future.

Tom Billington, a production trainee with a keen interest in sport, is being mentored by BBC director of sport Roger Mosey. Through regular face-to-face meetings and emails, Mosey offers Billington support and access to contacts.

“Although Roger has an extremely hectic schedule, he always finds time to respond to my many questions and has been on hand to offer advice when I have needed it,” says Billington.

“With my future plans being to work on the London Olympics in 2012, Roger is the best person to help me achieve this and guide me. It's an informal relationship that gets stronger with every meeting, and one that I see as being a success not just for the duration of my trainee scheme, but for the rest of my career.”

The mentoring relationship also has positive benefits for Mosey, who enjoys Billington's “can do” attitude. “His enthusiasm about working for the BBC is a reminder of what a great place it can be for creative people. Tom's doing all the right things at the moment in terms of getting broad experience and seeing what he particularly enjoys. I've no doubt he's exactly the kind of person we'll need around the BBC's coverage of London 2012 - grabbing hold of the opportunities and seeing the potential rather than the problems.”

BBC Training & Development runs several other mentoring programmes for internal and external audiences. The BBC Production Trainee Scheme opens for applications early in March.

When Darren Minshall joined Lime Pictures as head of human resources three years ago, he decided to rebrand his department as HR Services and added the strapline “advice, support, guidance” to emphasise the importance he attaches to staff development.

The Liverpool-based company, formerly known as Mersey Television, offered 136 placements in 2008 to encourage new talent. From this, three people were given permanent contracts, two more received
fixed-term contracts and 10 more secured freelance work.

“In terms of our placements, mentoring provides a clear framework in which our people's needs, objectives and company aims are addressed and met,” says Minshall. “Through our trainee roles to our industry place-ments, there is always a dedicated individual [internally or externally] assigned to provide support and guidance.”

Lime has forged a number of important training and development partnerships, designed to attract, retain and develop the best possible talent. For example, with Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication and Liverpool John Moores University. Additionally, Lime has worked with Skillset on developing the production management diploma in partnership with Salford University and offers an advanced apprenticeship in media production for 16- to 22-year-olds.

“It was great to secure a work placement with Lime Pictures,” says Rosalind Gildea, a former trainee. “The opportunity led to an offer of a trainee role as a production assistant on Hollyoaks. Here I really benefited from being mentored by a more experienced production assistant. A few months on and I am now a fully fledged PA and on the show's credits.”


Emma Bacon joined Soho Film Lab's internal apprenticeship scheme in January after studying media production at university. “It's a brilliant opportunity to gain practical experience in a busy film laboratory and facility,” she says of working at the rushes processing, colouring, film post-production grading and cleaning facility. “I am really enjoying my time so far and the technology behind film never fails to amaze me.”

Soho Film Lab director of film services Oliver Ronicle says he had to “fight his corner” with parent company Ascent Media to secure the budget to take on Emma and another apprentice and invest in their mentoring and development at a difficult economic time.

“Film will continue to be around and someone has to show confidence in it,” says Ronicle. “It's vital to bring in new talent and nurture it. I want to see people get the opportunity to excel in this environment.”

Under Ronicle's watchful eye the apprentices are being rotated through various positions to learn about different aspect of the business, from engineering and production to bookings and telecine.


The management team at Somerset-based factual television indie Grace Productions, which recently picked up the RTS West of England Regional Documentary of the Year award for Beeching's Tracks, receives coaching and mentoring from external consultancy Road Trip Media.

Grace began working with Road Trip in 2006 under Skillset's Indie Business Development Scheme. After the year-long scheme came to an end, Grace continued working with the consultancy, run by Caroline Beaton, a master practitioner in neuro-linguistic programming and a fully qualified life coach. Beaton moved into mentoring after almost 20 years in television, during which she held roles including managing director of Action Time (Carlton Television) and senior director for MTV Networks' head office in New York.

“Working with Grace has been an example of how mentoring can work at its best - a talented, ambitious and competent company that was open to support in moving things on to the next level, in terms of business planning/investment, relationships and content,” says Beaton.

“The mentoring process generated far more than a feel-good factor. Grace is a company that is going places, from its award-winning content to its bottom line, and I am proud to be a part of what has enabled them to keep moving forward so successfully.”

Grace creative director Ray Tostevin says Beaton has helped Grace rewrite its business plan and has introduced the indie to valuable contacts who have helped with archive rights and specialist legal issues.

“Knowing that we can call on Caroline's services for a particular issue is great,” Tostevin concludes. “She helps us think strategically.”


All3Media-owned Company Pictures took on graduate trainee Jordan Hogg last year as part of Channel 4's Diversity Production Training Scheme. Hogg, who has mild cerebral palsy, was one of nine disabled film-makers to create a short for Channel 4 series The Shooting Party.

At Company, Hogg has been mentored by Lawrence Till, series producer/director on Shameless. He has seen the shooting and post production of series six, currently airing, and will follow series seven from writing to shoot.

“I'll sit with Lawrence and draw out camera plans,” says Hogg. “Then he'll go through them with me and tell me what he thinks is the best way to shoot it. The mentoring and tutoring I'm getting is absolutely priceless.”

Hogg has also benefited from some external training and mentoring, including a one-on-one session on handling actors with director Laurence Moody.

According to Alison Walsh, editorial manager, disability at Channel 4, there are likely to be slightly fewer than last year's 18 places on the Diversity scheme this year but it will continue its aim to offer participants a rounded experience, training and networking opportunities.

“If we don't bring in new people and learn from them as well as mentor them, we will fossilise,” adds Till.

Envy has hired around 100 runners since opening for business in 2005, but last year decided it needed a more structured process for identifying, nurturing and developing new talent. Hence the Envy Academy, created in October 2008 by the post house's head of client services Mat Appleton.

Last autumn, Appleton visited universities, speaking to students interested in working in post. An innovative component is a Facebook forum, where students can share tips and upload work.

“We really want to find talent and get it for ourselves,” says Appleton. “Since the start of this year we've had about 20 people in on placements of between one and six weeks and I've encouraged two to stay in touch. A lot of the runners I've hired in the past have made the cut and gone on to start building good careers at Envy.”

At the end of each year, the most talented students will be invited back to Envy for masterclasses. At least one student will then be offered a full-time running job.

“It's opened my eyes to how things are done,” says Danny Perkins, a Ravensbourne student who had a placement at Envy this year.