In 2008, following his graduation from the University of Greenwich in London, Michael Bullion, the founder and CEO of Black-owned media and entertainment company Tribe Urban Entertainment, found himself frustrated by his job search.
“[I was] looking for work for over 18 months. And the recurring theme with everyone that I spoke to was ‘You have any experience?’” he recalls. “My thought process was wait—I’ve been in uni for the last few years studying so that I can come here to work. And, I’ve come here to work and you’re saying to me, do you have any experience? [I’m not] meant to get the experience because I’ve been studying. So I got really disillusioned with universities as a whole.”
Bullion made the best of things and went on to earn respect as a community leader and chairman of Thurrock TRUST prior to a brief stint in politics. Following this, he harnessed his existing skills—and acquired new ones—to build and launch his own media house, Tribe Urban Entertainment, in 2018, fulfilling a lifelong dream of his. The company includes Tribe Urban Radio with listeners in more than 20 countries worldwide, and Tribe Urban Studios, a London-based “hub for content creation and production,” according to their website.
“I thought to myself, when I started [Tribe Urban], that I wanted to be able to do something that would encourage minority ethnic people to be able to access the highest quality of facilities at an affordable price,” says Bullion, “[but also] to be able to give young people the ability to have the right equipment and facilities to be able to take their development to the highest level possible.”
Tribe Urban’s internship program
Empowering and supporting youth has been part of Tribe Urban’s DNA from the get-go. In an effort to make securing employment easier for today’s media-focused graduates, the media company recently started a paid, six-month internship program in partnership with Bullion’s alma mater, the University of Greenwich.
“Supporting the next generation of creatives is part of our mission statement,” Bullion says. “And in this case, you know, this is the next generation of creatives, the people coming out of university.”
Applications for the flagship iteration of the program began in January for eight first- and second-year students from the University of Greenwich’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Selected students will get experience in roles ranging from broadcasting and content creation to radio and video production.
“The eight people selected were the best possible fit for the business culture, as well as having the unnerving desire to not only learn but to add value to the business,” Bullion notes.
Tribe Urban’s interns gain hands-on experience
The Tribe Urban internship is not of the rest-on-your-laurels and fetch coffee variety, but one that asks interns to get their hands dirty.
“We train them, we show them the ropes, we show them how to do things, but then there is a point in time where we stop holding their hands, and we’re like, these are your deliverables—deliver them,” Bullion says.
Regular check-ins will be part of the program to make sure the students are getting the most from it. “And that way we know that we’re looking for areas where they may be struggling so that we can then correct [those], so that they can continue their self-development.”
Radio presenter interns will be running Tribe Urban’s show, Top30. A typical week includes behind-the-scenes work that runs the gamut from researching and putting together a show plan (on time) to liaising with artists and creating social media content.
“There’s a lot of work that happens away from the actual delivery of the show,” Bullion notes. The interns will be presenting every Friday following the show’s commencement in April.
Content creators will be penning articles for the Tribe Urban website while learning about writing style and “what content should look like from a media house perspective, from a radio station perspective,” Bullion explains.
For radio producers, the core role and responsibility is to ensure that shows are curated for Tribe Urban’s key audiences and demographic. Their day-to-day generally includes generating and researching ideas for the show and pitching those ideas to the team; sourcing potential contributors and interviewees for the radio show; selecting music that’s appropriate for the program, the audience and the station; arranging pre-production briefings; managing the logistics of getting people, resources and equipment together at the right place and at the right time; managing the presenters and responding to audience feedback, among other potential duties.
Empowering and supporting young people
“One of the things that we are keen to do is make sure that not only are we training them but we’re also taking their ideas on board and being able to empower them and show them that it’s not just a one-way relationship,” Bullion explains. “When you go into a work environment, you need to bring your ideas on board because sometimes the company actually pays you more for [doing so than] actually what you’ve come to deliver.”
If all goes well with this trial run of the internship program, Tribe Urban plans on working with students from around 10 universities per year.
“We’re definitely planning to talk to Ravensbourne University London, because they’re not too far from us, as well. Generally, we want to do any university that’s within a 50- to 60-mile radius of us,” Bullion says. This is in part to make it easier for the two parties to work with one another, but also because Tribe Urban wants to create a coworking community, or “family” as Bullion calls it, so students from the various universities can collaborate.
What others can learn from Tribe Urban’s internship program
“One of the things that the program can teach other businesses [about conducting effective internships is] being able to clearly identify the right kind of personnel for the business culture that they’re trying to establish,” Bullion says. “One of the challenges that we’ve faced [is] just getting the right fit of people to work within the business and having the same kind of business culture. As an equal opportunities employer, we just don’t know what they look like until they actually start working with you. You start to see the characters.”
Paying each of the interns a London Living Wage (£11.95, equivalent to $14.93 USD) also offers other businesses a few lessons to learn.
“The cost of living is at an all-time high, and we feel it’s only right that in spite of this being an internship, people still need to earn some sort of income,” Bullion says. “And if at the very least it takes care of their food and travel, then at least it’s a couple less things they have to worry about financing.”
For the interns, real-world experience and the lessons learned along the way offer them invaluable experience that they can use toward securing future work opportunities.
“From our perspective, we feel that when people have worked here for six months, they can then [once they’ve graduated] go directly to the industry and say ‘yes, I have the experience,’” Bullion says. “It just gives them a bigger foot through the door.”
Photo by Tanya Gordon; courtesy of Tribe Urban