Posted on September 15, 2015
When Oakey Hand applied to study carpentry at Suffolk New College, he feared he would be rejected because he had no qualifications.
But tutors took a chance – and today, three years on, the 19-year-old is preparing to take up his dream job as a set builder for the Royal Opera House.
Although Oakey didn’t have any GCSEs, his positive attitude and determination to succeed impressed lecturers – and persuaded them to offer him a place.
The youngster quickly repaid the faith shown in him by excelling in his studies and securing work at one of the world’s most famous opera companies.
“It’s a dream job,” said Oakey, who is from the travelling community and lives near Woodbridge.
“When I applied to the College, I explained that I’d had some difficulties and that was why I didn’t get any GCSEs. Fortunately, the tutors were willing to give me a go.”
Last summer, Oakey found work building sets at Snape Maltings – and when the Royal Opera toured in Suffolk, he wasted no time in asking for a job.
“I was working for a farmer and we drove past Snape Maltings Concert Hall. It got me thinking, so I went home, typed up my CV, then jumped on my moped and went to Snape Maltings to ask for a job – which is exactly when I got.
“While working there I met some people from the Royal Opera – one of whom was an apprentice, and she suggested I apply for a similar role.
“When I spoke to them they said I was over-qualified, though, but they did offer me some work experience – and then the boss of the workshop offered me a job, which I begin next month.”
He will be based at the Royal Opera workshop, in Purfleet, Essex, and will tour the country with the company.
“My tutors have all been asking me for free opera tickets,” said Oakey, who is a keen actor and has previously performed at the New Wolsey in the youth theatre.
“I always try my hardest to do the best I can. I never wanted a normal job.
“The plan is to eventually move on to working on film sets – and maybe eventually get back into acting.”
He added: “The Suffolk New College course was great. I had a really good time and learnt so much. There are so many different doorways in this industry.
“Carpentry is such a broad skill – it can include anything from set construction to boat-building.”
Richard Illman, Suffolk New College Carpentry and Joinery Lecturer, said Oakey’s hard work had paid off.
“All the Carpentry team are extremely proud of Oakey having found his dream job working on set designs at the Royal Opera, especially considering he did not meet the entry requirements of the course when he first attended College in 2012.
“Oakey had no formal qualifications but we all agreed that we liked his enthusiasm for carpentry and would give him a chance. Oakey was very determined from the start to succeed and has always been willing to listen to advice and act on it to improve his carpentry skills.
“It is a credit to Oakey that he made the right impression while working at Snape Maltings on set designs to be recommended to work at the Royal Opera House and further still to get the job. We wish him all the best for the future.”