The Local Government Association (LGA), a long term partner organisation of JLGC, took part in the JETAA’s Careers’ Forum, interested in candidates with international experience looking for a career in UK public sector. Flo Henry, a trainee on the LGA’s National Graduate Development Programme spoke at the event in October which was the most well-attended by JET alumni of the talks on the day.
I’m a National Management Trainee at Barking and Dagenham Council of the NGDP and I chose to apply for the NGDP because I liked the variety of doing 4 x 6-month placements in a range of departments and liked the opportunities it provided to help everyday residents. Applying for the NGDP and learning more about the amazing (and underappreciated) work that local government does along the way, was one of the best decisions I ever made. The NGDP Scheme is a fast-track public sector management scheme that provides you with the opportunity to work at a high level. It’s been ranked in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.
My first six-month placement was in communications team. This included a range of tasks including writing press releases and liaising with the media, ordering marketing materials for a range of council departments and planning and drafting the council’s social media content for its over 7,000 followers. I wrote weekly sections for the council’s e-Newsletter which went out to over 8,000 residents and created and editing videos and internal communications for staff about wider transformation going on in the council. I also did some behavioural change work on the council’s recycling and obesity campaigns including writing blog posts for micro-websites, research about best practice and looking at new ways to encourage residents to both recycle, and eat healthily.
My second placement has been in the council’s Delivery Unit. The Delivery Unit is a small team within the council that works on the council’s priority projects, whilst also upskilling its workers in a range of transferable skills. I was tasked with leading on a project about the reasons why Sixth Form students opt to leave Barking and Dagenham for Sixth Form. Using the findings of the research, I came up with outlines for interventions that the council could try to improve its retention rates of students (based on wider national research), and come up with a suggestion for pilot presented this to a range of stakeholders from schools and within the council, and the education team so they can progress from here.
During my second placement, I was also tasked with being Project Co-ordinator for Barking and Dagenham’s response to Grenfell Tower. After the Grenfell Tower tragedy in West Kensington, local authorities across the country did an increased number of checks to their housing blocks to check for ACM cladding and more. The project was high-pressure and also harrowing, but a great learning experience, and demonstrated to me how varied and important local government’s role is to all of us.
For my third six-month placement I’m now in the council’s Growth and Homes Department where I’ll get the opportunity to be involved in some commissioning of services such as youth employment skills, and help draft some policy.
I’ve been really impressed with the responsibility that I’ve been given, and how well-regarded the scheme is within the sector. I have friends on the NGDP from a range of disciplines – some were teachers before the scheme, some are straight out of university with science degrees and some have experience of working abroad before the scheme. So, just because you don’t know much about politics or government, don’t let that put you off working in local government.
The sector is facing a range of challenges, including how to do more with less as austerity and budget cuts start to place new pressures on councils. But, the way councils are responding are interesting and exciting. At Barking and Dagenham, we’ve set up a council-owned regeneration company and are looking at new approaches to early intervention to name a few of the exciting changes happening with the council.