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What Does It Mean To Be a Radio Connection Apprentice?

In our current economy, competition in the job market has become quite fierce, where it is not uncommon for hundreds of applicants to compete for a single job opening. This is just as true in the radio market as it is anywhere else, if not more so. These days, it takes much more than a basic education to be taken seriously for a job in this industry. The people who are most likely to be considered for these openings are those with prior work experience and connections within the industry. Skill alone is not enough; this is very much a WHO-YOU-KNOW type of industry.

The conventional thinking about breaking into the radio industry is that you should attend an expensive four-year school and earn a degree or diploma that tells employers you have what it takes. The reality of this business, however, is that a degree or diploma does not necessarily make you employable. Potential employers in radio want to know that you understand the workings of the broadcast facility because you have on-the-job work experience, not just a piece of paper from a college or trade school. Furthermore, getting into real broadcasting facilities will help you get your foot in the door of the industry by giving you the chance to form valuable working relationships with other industry pros (remember, this is a WHO-YOU-KNOW business).

What this means for most radio students is that they must go through demanding internships (often unpaid) in addition to their schooling, or even AFTER graduation—and if student debt is involved, you can already understand what a stress that can be. And while internships look good on paper because you have exposure to the professional work environment, having an internship is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

In reality, interns serve as “errand runners” and “chore doers,” often doing the tedious, menial tasks the pros don’t want to do, or don’t have time to do. This can be stressful, tiresome, and sometimes downright humiliating, and the work involved frequently has nothing to do with learning the radio business (you can “pay your dues” as an intern, but you can’t learn radio broadcasting by picking up someone’s laundry or going for coffee). Internships afford you little opportunity to prove your worth or to demonstrate the skills you picked up while in school.

This is precisely why the Radio Connection is NOT an internship, but rather an APPRENTICESHIP. What is the difference? While INTERNS often struggle to get their foot in the door, APPRENTICES are escorted through the door. While INTERNS are sweeping the floor or running to the drive-through to pick up lunch orders, APPRENTICES are sitting behind the console, being taught one-on-one by an actual radio professional. INTERNS frequently find their resumes at the bottom of a long list of applicants; APPRENTICES frequently find their resumes at the top—especially considering that they were probably trained by the very people doing the hiring!

There is simply no more effective way to learn a trade than through apprenticeship (externship) . It’s a time-tested learning approach that has been used for centuries. As a Radio Connection apprentice (extern), you will be paired with a working expert in the field of radio who will serve as a personal MENTOR for you—a person who has been working in radio for sometimes 20 years or more. Our mentors are not full-time instructors simply paid to teach classes for a living; these are people who are actually making a successful living in radio. As a Radio Connection apprentice (extern), you will work with this person on-the-job, in the radio station—and because all classes are conducted one-on-one, you will have your mentor’s undivided attention. And while running errands is a natural part of the work day in a radio station, as an apprentice (extern), your place each day is in the chair next to your mentor—not fetching coffee or sweeping floors.

As an apprentice (extern), you go into the radio station with the prior understanding that you are not there merely to do chores, but to learn the radio business. You and your mentor will follow a prescribed structured curriculum that we have written, and your mentor will make sure you have fulfilled all your requirements prior to certification. You will have plenty of hands-on training with the equipment, in private sessions, and at your own pace. If this were an internship, this kind of learning would happen ONLY if your chores were done; with an apprenticeship (externship) , this kind of learning is the very reason why you are there. By the time you have completed this six-month course, you will have a thorough working understanding of the business, with plenty of on-the-job experience to make you a viable job candidate. It is this apprenticeship (externship) relationship that forms the very backbone of our program.

That being said, while the mentor-apprentice (extern) relationship is typically a strong one (sometimes a lifetime relationship), a lot of the success of this relationship depends on you—your passion, commitment, and dedication to the tasks at hand. The bond between you and your mentor won’t be automatic—this is a working business relationship, one in which you must earn the trust of your mentor through character and integrity by consistently attending class, doing your homework, and being diligent on the job. Think of it as an opportunity to audition for a long-term position every time you come into the station. As you do so, your mentor will be more likely to be personally invested in you, in your education, and in your future success. (Compare that to an internship where the higher-ups have a difficult time even remembering your name!)

As you fulfill your apprenticeship (externship) in the radio facility, your mentor will introduce you to others at the station who can help shape your future career. (For the third time—this is a WHO-YOU-KNOW business.) The relationships you form during this period of time, with your mentor and with others, can have a significant impact on your first, second, third, and even fourth jobs in radio. Earning the respect of your mentor can result in a recommendation that will be worth more to you than any degree, diploma or certificate money can buy. A handshake with the right person can carry you farther than the best internship opportunity in the business. That’s how important connections are—and that’s the true value of the opportunity you are given with this program.

The choices you make today will inevitably affect what happens tomorrow. If you have a passion for the radio business, you want to go about it the right way, and you want to make the most of every opportunity to learn, grow and connect. The Radio Connection is the only full apprenticeship (externship) program of its kind, giving you a spread of career-building opportunities you simply won’t find anywhere else: the chance to learn a trade, gain work experience and make career connections all in the same experience. It’s a tough job market out there, and you need every possible advantage in order to succeed. Our program makes sure you have these advantages in ways no other school can offer.

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