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avad3 Apprentice Program: 2020

May 18, 2020

Launch your Production Career by completing a two-year hands-on apprenticeship in live event production.

by Cameron Magee

The backstory

When I was twelve years old, I wandered up to the sound booth at my church. I spent the next three years learning from the church’s full-time production person. Every Sunday morning, afternoon and night. Every Wednesday afternoon and night. Every wedding. Every youth event, women’s event, children’s event. Every camp… everything. I knew immediately that I loved the work. What I didn’t know what just how rare of an opportunity and what a gift that mentorship was. After three years of working around the clock, that mentor moved on to another job and I realized something very quickly. What I had for those three years was priceless. It was rare. And I learned that there wasn’t really anywhere out there I could go to continue that training, so, I continued the best I could at teaching myself.

I looked at colleges and trade schools but there weren’t scholarships and the cost/investment was just too much. I was in a weird spot. I knew I wasn’t good enough to start my career with a full-time job in production, I didn’t have the qualifications. But, I also had no idea how I was going to get those qualifications, without getting a job.

That’s why I’m writing this. I know somewhere out there, there’s someone in that same spot, right now. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s someone you’ve mentored. Maybe a friend, a volunteer at church, or someone you see a lot of potential in.

Here I am today, eighteen years later. I’ve followed my dream. At 30 years old I’ve been doing production for 18/30 years, and it’s the passion of my life. I knew at 20 years old I was supposed to do production, and supposed to lead a team, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing ever since. Today, we call that team avad3 Event Production. We’re a small but healthy company that serves events here in my hometown of Northwest Arkansas but also across the country year-round. I’m proud of the warehouse of equipment, the team of professionals, the projects we get to do. I became the most proud a few years ago when we launched what you’re reading about right now: the avad3 Apprenticeship program. If production is my passion, the apprenticeship program is the clearest view of that passion. Getting to see others go from beginners to professionals.

Over the last two years, I have been given an amazing opportunity to develop both character qualities and technical strengths. I not only feel confident as a Production Tech but also as a Production Manager, and I have been blessed to be a part of over 200 events and have built amazing relationships with dozens of people across NWA and the nation. Completing the apprenticeship is my biggest personal accomplishment yet, and I am so grateful to Cameron and the vision he had in creating this space for me to grow beyond my wildest dreams!

What the program looks like

Two Years, Full-Time

This is a two year, full-time commitment. Before this we tried summer internships, we’ve done some high school programs, and we’ve learned what it takes to generate professionals. It takes two years, and it takes a full-time focus.

Lessons, Training, & Hands-On Learning

The foundation of the program lies in the hundreds of lessons (mostly videos) we’ve built over the years. These give you the head knowledge of what you need to know, at your own pace. Secondly you have access to training with real life professionals in the industry (our team, the program leader, and production guests we bring in). Lastly, and most importantly, you get hands-on learning. Watching lessons and listening to training can only get you so far. It takes going hands-on to make things click. If you’re a visual learner this is for you, production is all about the visuals of going from road cases to stage designs, all the work of your hands. It’s the inverse of a college course that’s mostly lecture with some lab. This is some lecture but mostly lab.

Your Warehouse of Equipment

Full access to the entire avad3 warehouse of equipment. Flip through our Instagram or check out success stories on our site. Nearly everything you see we own and store right here in the avad3 shop. More than an internship at a theater or church where you’re in the same room on the same system every day, the equipment is yours and the shop is your blank canvas for practice.

Real Show Experience

At avad3 we do over 100 events each year. We’re not going to leave you behind at the shop to practice your skills, you’ll go with the team to events, here in Northwest Arkansas and traveling. You’ll start by helping setup. Pushing cases and running cables. During the two years you’ll watch yourself grow from basics to operating consoles, being a tech and ultimately being able to engineer, design and lead a small show yourself. You won’t be a console your first day. You’ll earn greater responsibilities on crews by gaining trust with what you’re given. We’re going to push you to grow, and stretch you, more than you ever would on your own.

Types of events you’ll be serving

We mostly do event production for conferences needing A/V support in their general sessions of 500+ and in their breakouts of 100+. We help non-profits with their gala dinners and annual fundraisers. Most churches have volunteer teams and don’t need a professional production company like us, but a lot of us serve in our own churches when we can on Sundays. We don’t get to do a ton of concerts. For the best look at what we do, check us out on social media like our Instagram and Facebook pages, and look around here on the site.

I quickly realized this was a great experience. I’m part of a team that produces amazing events and I work alongside amazing people.

Picking your Passion

We understand some folks may enter knowing they want to specialize in a particular department: audio, video, lighting or creative. We think that’s great. Others may come in with a more general taste and not know yet. We think that’s great, too. Some positions we operate:

Audio Tech, Camera Director, Video Tech, Graphics, Playback, Camera Op, Lighting Designer, Producer, Production Assistant, Production Manager, Breakout Tech, AVL Tech.

The two year program has four quarters. First, you’ll mostly be a hand, broadly seeing as many things on as many shows possible. Second, you’ll become a general production tech, being well-rounded in the basics of all departments. Then, halfway through after your first year, you’ll specialize. Either choosing one of the departments or intentionally choosing to avoid expertise and staying a generalist. We have a spot for either. The third quarter you’ll grow by solely doing the specialized department of your choice. The fourth and final quarter you’ll be pushed out the nest to fly on your own, being completely responsible for the department and fulfilling the role as the lead on-site on crews.

It’s a progression. Whether you know from day one you want to be an A1, or you’re not sure because you’ve always only done Camera, you’re going to have space. Exploration will lead to you being resolute, and will make you a more well-rounded production tech in the process, a win-win.

Past Apprentice Experiences

  • Past apprentices have each served on over 200 crews during their 2 years.
  • The majority of our work is here in Northwest Arkansas but they’ve worked thousands of miles away as far as Washington DC and California.
  • Most of our work is quiet, behind the scenes work at conferences but they’ve served national artists, presidential candidates and high-profile celebrity guests.
  • We own a solid base of equipment but they’ve also rented in and experienced pieces of gear worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, worked huge rooms and flown big rigs.
  • Averaging 40hrs/wk for 50wks/yr is over 4000 hours of training, practice and on-site experience in the industry.

Average Week

We do over 100 events each year. When you take out holidays and weeks off, that averages to about 2-3 events per week. Some are small, with crews of 2. Others are large, with crews of 20. The average is somewhere in the middle. Most events setup the day before. So, the majority of any week you’ll spend on-site either setting up, operating, or tearing down. In between these on off weeks or downtime days, you’ll be back at our shop in Lowell. These days are even more important than the on-site days because you have the chance to reflect, review, realize the gap, work towards bridging that gap, practice, and prep for the next event. We start each week with a team meeting. Occasionally there are other meetings you’ll be invited to, but as an apprentice, your primary job is learning. So you either need to be on-site at an event, or taking advantage of the resources we have on-hand to grow yourself here.

Apprentice Program Cost

The avad3 Apprentice program is unlike anything else. No where else can you gain this type of quality instruction and hands-on opportunities. We’ve poured years into developing the training content, the practice scenarios, and the curriculum path to take folks from beginners to professionals. All this comes at a cost, and that’s what it costs us. Here’s what it costs you. Two years of your life, giving dedicated focus to learning as much as you can. You’ll get out what you put in, and we expect you to put a lot in. It’ll also cost you some sweat. Our apprentices work their way through the program. This is not a comfy country club experience. Part of preparing yourself to work in production is conditioning yourself for hard work.

What it doesn’t cost you is money. When the dream for the program first starting taking root we insisted on not letting cost become a barrier. Just like my story, I knew I wanted to do production but I couldn’t justify the investment in the schooling.

We built the program to combine learning and working together. You’ll work your way through the two year program. Instead of having to pay for graduate school or take on more student debt, we’re going to pay you to learn. When I look back on my career, I consider every day “paid learning.” Anyone can learn from anything at any time if they’re willing. I’ve always been an eager and willing learner, and a lifetime learner. In production, that’s what you need to be, and it starts with habits you need to build in this program as you consider your job, “paid learning.”

Graduating as an avad3 Apprentice

At the end of the two years we throw a big graduation celebration. We turn our shop into a venue and the graduating apprentices walk across the stage to receive their certificate. The whole show is ran by your underclassman, who setup the stage, audio, video and lights and serve as operators for the program.

We’re a growing company, and we hope to have grown enough over the two years to be able to offer full-time positions on the team to our graduating apprentices. However, it’s not a guarantee. We simply can’t guarantee that we will continue growing at this pace. If we have to choose between keeping a graduate and making a spot on the team for a new apprentice, we’re committed to the program, and will always prioritize giving the next apprentice a spot. We are however, extremely motivated to keep you. You’ll be an incredibly qualified production professional, who knows what we do, how we do it, and is already woven into the tightly-knit team. However, if there’s not a spot, or if you aspire to tour or go work for a church or some other facet of production other than what we proudly do here at avad3, we understand.

I can’t think of a better more qualified person entering the industry than an avad3 graduating certified apprentice. Even if you were able to be hired as an entry-level or greater production position right out of college, the program makes those who are deep deeper, and it makes those who are wide narrow. The growth from making these two years the next step in your journey is an incredible opportunity.

Here’s a magazine article about the program

What we’re looking for

We’ve had so many applications come in for the apprenticeship program over the past few years, and only a handful of spots. We take the hiring process very seriously and are very open with what we’re looking for. Passion, and Work Ethic.

First, you need to know you’re passionate about Production. If you’re not sure yet, go volunteer, or go help load-in at an arena tour. Do things to push yourself. Do hard things, do a 2am load-out in the rain. If you wake up the next morning and want to do it all over again, that’s called passion. You’re probably the go-to tech support person either at your job or with your family, maybe your church. Maybe you’re musical, maybe you consider yourself a geek. You’ve read a technical manual or two. You like watching YouTube tutorials, maybe you’ve even made a few. At avad3 we’re passionate about production. When you know that production is what you want to do, you’ll be willing to put in the hard work, to learn things the right way, because you’ll see the hours today as a long term investment in the years tomorrow.

Secondly, you need to have a strong work ethic. A can-do attitude. You need to be self-driven. When faced with something, you might say, “I don’t know, but I could probably figure it out.” This should not be your first job. We look for people who have held responsibility, have carried the torch and not dropped the ball. Over the two years, 365 days each year, there will be times when you want to give up. We need driven, hard-working people who have a strong work ethic and won’t give up. We pour a lot into the program and our apprentices, we expect them to not give up and to finish the race.

What we’re not looking for

You don’t have to know everything. We’re not looking for a know-it-all. If you wonder if you “have what it takes” because you don’t have tons of experience, then see above, because you might be the perfect fit. This is an apprenticeship, not a traditional job. If you were applying for a job you’d need to show off everything you know so they see that you’re qualified and give you the position. We’re not as focused on what you know today as we are focused on the two things above: passion and work ethic. If you’ve got those, great.

We’re also not looking only for young people. You don’t have to be 18-25 to apply for this. Regardless of where you are in life, if you’re available to give two years to this, and you’re able to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate the program, apply. We’ve reduced the financial cost and flipped the story where you’re not going into student loans to pay for this, we’ll pay you, but we whole-heartedly understand you won’t be making as an apprentice in this industry what you may make as a full-time person in another. Apprentices are apprentices, they are not yet full professionals, so we understand there is a compensation gap in the meantime.

Details for 2020 Applicants

We launched the program in 2018 with two apprentices. We added two more last summer. We planned to grow and have four spots starting mid-summer. The pandemic has made a direct hit on the industry so we have adjusted to what we can do, but we can do this! We will have two spots, with a delayed start date. It will still be a 24-month program. We will not cut the time short because of the delayed start.

  • May 18, 2020: Application posted
  • June 30, 2020: Due date, begin reviewing applications
  • July: Phone interviews, team interviews, in-person interviews
  • August 19, 2020: Positions awarded
  • September 16, 2020: Start date

Position Compensation & Benefits

This is a full-time position on the avad3 team. Apprentices are teammates. You’ll be a full-time, hourly employee working 40+ hours per week. Annual compensation of $24,000 plus these benefits:

  • 401K Retirement with 6% match
  • Company-paid 60% healthcare benefits
  • Relocation reimbursement allowance for applicants outside NWA region
  • Annual company offsite days, Canoe Float, Christmas Party and fun time as a team!
  • Annual training budget for seminars, etc.
  • Cell phone reimbursement allowance
  • Company-issued Apple MacBook Computer
  • Paid personal days starting at 20/year.

LET US KNOW YOU’RE INTERESTED

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