1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
My job title is Policy Adviser and I work in the Planning Directorate in the Department of Communities and Local Government. My role has changed rapidly depending on what the priorities of the department are. When I first started I worked on the Neighbourhood Planning Act and helped take it through the Lords, I am now split between working on a support contract for Neighbourhood Planning and leading a large data exercise on Neighbourhood Plans so far.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
My Excel and Access skills have definitely improved, as well as setting up contracts and working with large data-sets.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
The work side I enjoy immensely. The apprenticeship however got so bad that my team agreed to pull me from it. I was not told the truth about the apprenticeship I would be doing, ending up on a generic business admin course that had no value to me or my work. My skills coach quit shortly after I met her for the first time and it took me four weeks of chasing up to find out. I only found out because of the good grace of another skills coach during a classroom exercise, and management for the apprenticeship company refused to meet me and instead had the poor skills coach try to explain and solve the issue. I am now in the process of applying for a more relevant course. (5 stars for work, 0 for apprenticeship).
4. How valued do you feel by Civil Service?
Incredibly. Some high profile work I carried out did not go unnoticed and I was pleasantly surprised to receive and exceptional performance award. The whole of DCLG has done nothing but support me and make me feel welcome from day one. My opinions are considered and taken on board when others agreed with them and I am being actively encouraged to apply for a higher grade.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
This is answered in number 3. This is a new programme for the apprenticeship provider and it most definitely has not been well thought out at all.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
From the skills coaches on the ground I received good quality support. You can clearly see that these people know their stuff and come from experienced backgrounds. Unfortunately they are let down by the lack of structure, management support and far to large workload. Inconsistent information was given because every skills coached seemed to be told different things at different times. Beyond the skills coaches there was no support.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
My employer has supported me fantastically from the go. From helping me pull out from the most stressful part (apprenticeship) to allowing me to work from home on a regular basis due to my location (I come from Norwich to London). My IT equipment was ready on my first day, my security pass arranged by the second day and all pay queries and contracts sorted within the first couple weeks. The efficiency of DCLG is unparalleled and it has done nothing by make me feel wanted and welcomed as part of the team.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
My salary covers my rent and personal bills as well as the travel and accommodation costs. The Fast Track pays you the same as a full time Executive Officer (£26,550 for DCLG in London!). It even allows me to save money for the future.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
My local team has a 'Fun Council' that arranges bi monthly events to get everyone out for a drink and games (bowling, crazy golf etc). Chances to go to training events and speeches outside of the office are on a weekly basis, there is always something on. You also get five days voluntary leave to go and volunteer however you please (fully paid as well!). DCLG has a commitment to provide something like 100,000 voluntary hours over the next few years and it is clear this is working. There is also a gym on site you can sign up to that holds daily classes from Zumba to Yoga and beyond.
9. Would you recommend Civil Service to a friend?
Everyone I have met has been incredibly supportive and friendly, and you get to get involved in major events (I spent two weeks on Grenfell following the disaster) which really allows you to get a feel for what the Civil Service is all about. Opportunities for promotion are world wide, not just for the UK but only if you're an existing civil servant. The pay is good, the atmosphere is good and if you're in Central London you get to meet all sorts of Ministers and officials.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Civil Service?
Personally I wouldn't promote the Fast Track, simply because of the apprenticeship side. However it is a very easy way to get your foot in the door as it is not affected by recruitment freezes and chances are you'll end up in a role you never thought existed, let alone enjoy it. Fast Track applicants go through online maths, English and situational awareness tests and if you pass these you get invited to an assessment day. This is around four hours and consisted of a group exercise, a one to one interview and a written test. Brush up on your interview skills, get actively involved in the group exercise and pay attention to the question in the exam! They're looking for confident people but not so much that you go in for the kill without thinking or working together!
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