My placement at Islington Council has allowed me to develop in ways that would have been unimaginable anywhere else.
The borough faces many of the sorts of issues I am interested in – inequality, social exclusion, ethnic integration – and after discussing them at my interview I have been actively encouraged to choose placements and work based on these ideals. My projects have also been incredibly wide-ranging, from a report on Housing Innovations to support digital inclusion, to creating a new Domestic Violence Strategy. I'm given plenty of chances to demonstrate my own initiative and develop management skills: for example I'm currently overseeing the corporate volunteering scheme for the entire council.
The culmination of all of this is that the most rewarding aspect of the scheme is feeling as though your efforts are actually making a difference: to the council, to local communities or to the lives of individuals. It's amazing working alongside people with similar values, all of whom face difficult work situations with unending reserves of patience and enthusiasm. I learn as much from the people as the work, and colleagues and managers alike have been extremely supportive of my role as an NGDP graduate. I am encouraged to go on training courses that will help my development, to volunteer as a mentor and a charity trustee to ensure I'm well-rounded and to shadow staff from different areas so I have as comprehensive a view of local government as possible.
Another key aspect of the scheme are the relationships you develop amongst your cohort, which become a really valuable resource for future networking. There is a strong focus within the scheme to prepare you for a management or leadership role within local government – this is all conveyed strongly through the capability framework that guides your placements, the senior-level exposure that the scheme promotes and the accompanying ILM qualification that acts as a framework for your on-the-job learning.
I would advise anyone thinking of applying to the scheme to bear the ethos of local government very strongly in mind. This is an intensely challenging programme that values those who can demonstrate their passion for local government and their desire to make a difference to local communities, and who have the drive and resilience to achieve positive changes in difficult times.