In a global pandemic when teams work at home, work experience was always going to be different. Gone are the days when work experience was about hoovering changing rooms floors and folding clothes for 7 hours a day for two weeks. This was my experience and so when I was asked to facilitate a work experience person in an at home setting, I was keen to make their experience as interesting and engaging as possible.
Where do I start
The work experience week would not have been possible without the coordination of our Entry to Work team here at Essex County Council. They became the conduit between the educational establishment, Service Transformation and the student. Providing all the necessary guidance to detail the expectations and provide a frame work in which we could build a schedule from. They also provided daily sessions with speakers from around the council as well as seeking out external suppliers to deliver engaging sessions.
As a multi-disciplinary team we were able to provide the student with 15 sessions across the service give them a flavour of what we do and how we work.
Before now Service Transformation had not had a work experience student come to the service. As a newly formed team in 2020, we’ve been focused on bringing the team together and on services we offer to the residents and staff across Essex.
Fast forward to the present day, and the team is bigger and more established and it felt like the right time. We wanted to offer a younger person an experience where they could focus on a future that is full of potential and hope.
What did the team get from it
On the face of it, it may look like the only benefit from doing such an experience sits with a student, and adds only additional pressures on a team. The reality is different and the team collectively can say that through providing a work experience opportunity the following has been gained.
Challenging times for a new world of work experience
Not being in the same building as a student was at times challenging. Our only point of contact was through email. Yes we could have had a phone number, but we had to be aware of safeguarding practices to safeguard the student and ourselves. This meant that when there was a technical issue for the student, we struggled to find out the root cause as our only contact within the team was through email.
Additionally in hindsight, we would have asked for the educational establishment to provide a profile on the student and what their individual wants were for the work experience encounter. If we had done this piece of work we could have built in tailored sessions for the student.
Forging interest in the future
The student had a really worthwhile experience. They were unaware of digital transformation in local government and this experience has given them food for thought in terms of what is on offer going forward for them.
I really appreciate the time and support you have given me through my work experience this week. I really enjoyed meeting the disciplines and learning how the service transformation team functions.
Recruiting in the user centred design industry can be challenging and our skills are in short supply. If we can forge links and help a generation understand the different opportunities open to them, then we might be able to encourage a wider pool of people to consider working in local government design.
We are hopeful that students of the future will join us either through school work experience or apprenticeship opportunities which we are now developing with our Entry to Work colleagues.
If you want more details on having a work experience or apprenticeship with Service Transformation or you want to chat about how we are approaching this work do get in touch via ST@essex.gov.uk.