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Watford Chamber of Commerce apprentice – See your ABILITY

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Lee has nearly completed an 18 month Team Leadership apprenticeship with the Watford Chamber of Commerce, with training provided by iSales Academy and he wants to work in film and TV post production and editing. Having identified a gap in his skills of team leadership and management, he decided to address it with an apprenticeship.

Lee explains: “I went for an interview in the sector for an editor role and it went really well, they loved my film work but during the recruitment process they changed what they were looking for and they wanted someone with management experience, a senior editor.”

Despite this setback, Lee found out the Chamber were looking for someone to manage a team as part of the Government Kick Starter scheme, so he applied via the apprenticeship scheme and has been in that role for the last 18 months. “This role is good as it allows me to fill the skills gap that I’ve been rejected for before.”

While many others would have got angry or frustrated, Lee believes that by highlighting his skills gap, it has allowed him to become more confident and stronger and a more equipped individual.

Lee’s route into the workplace followed studying at West Herts college and he credits their tutors for helping him decide his next steps. Lee explains: “I got three unconditional offers for university on my showreel alone and these were some of the biggest uni’s in film and TV production. I sat down with my tutor and looked at the pros and cons. Through the work I was doing with the college ‘Gap’ work experience programme, I already had a connection to the Watford Chamber and my tutor suggested I focus on building my portfolio and getting work experience to then move permanently into post production.”

Lee became a freelance editor, joined the Chamber of Commerce, and also worked at Tesco to supplement his income, all whilst applying for full time roles. After ‘that’ interview and knowing he had a skills gap in management Lee describes the sort of manager he has aims to become. Lee explains “The best managers manage a team of people to do what they can’t. I wanted to learn about leadership and to become a leader and not just a manager to get the best out of people. I’m passionate about giving people opportunities. Unfortunately, many people look at me and just see the wheelchair I sit in, so I have to overcome that.”

“Your experiences as a disabled person do define you. I think it’s my willingness to learn from my experiences and make positive changes that could inspire others in a similar position. Last week I held an event with the Chamber about being a disability positive employer and the best way to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. I also wanted to address perceptions of disability too. My ice breaker question to the room was can you swim; can you sing or can you speak French? The definition of disability is to put someone at a disadvantage, so are you also at a disadvantage if you can’t swim, sing, or speak French and how would you feel if someone called you disabled because you couldn’t do it?”

“In my view there is no such thing as normal, so there is nothing to compare any disability to. In my team when we talk about disABILITY and we focus on the ability. I want others to see I’m leading a team of 18 people and to think if he can do it then so can I.”

Lee has been asked to stay on with the Chamber for the next year as the head of people and people development. Lee concludes: “This apprenticeship is absolutely taking me in a direction I had not even thought of. Back in 2019 when I left college I was very focused on film and I still want to do it, but I never thought I would be doing what I am and enjoying it. In the future, I think I will be able to progress more quickly in the film world, as I’ve got the management skills I was missing.”

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