In an effort to implement the cross-government Keep On Caring strategy, several departments have created work and learning opportunities for care-experienced young people. From the Department of Education, to the Ministry of Defence, to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, all of them share the government’s ambition to become the most inclusive and diverse employer in the UK. To make these opportunities more accessible, individuals don’t need to have any previous qualifications to apply.
In 2018, 12 young people working with Drive Forward successfully applied for several 12-months paid internship opportunities within the civil service. This number corresponds to an outstanding 10% of all the opportunities available!
Whilst some of them were recent graduates, the majority of them had only limited or no qualifications at all. So, what made them succeed?
Ambition, motivation, and effort.
These young people succeeded not because of their outstanding grades, above average talent or distinguished connections; they succeeded because they put in the time and energy to understand the opportunity in front of them, tailor their written applications to the job and practice their interview skills in order to impress a critical panel. They succeeded because they had the drive to succeed and progress in their lives.
Why does the government want to encourage more care leavers to join their ranks?
First of all, they know that going through the care system can have a significant and long-lasting impact on individuals’ lives. Secondly, in order to become truly representative of and adequately serve the British people, they need to make a conscious effort to bring more diverse experiences into their workforce.
Statistics show that children in care are five times more likely to have a disrupted education; they may get excluded from school or drop out altogether. Special educational needs are much more common amongst children who were placed into care and almost half of children in care and care leavers have to struggle with serious mental health issues throughout their lives. Acknowledging these statistics, the civil service has identified the enormous potential of enabling people with lived experience to actively drive and improve the system to better represent and serve society.
At Drive Forward, we share this belief that in order to achieve positive long-term change, we need to empower those people who can bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table; those who are enthusiastic and motivated to have a lasting impact on the people.
In the past year, we’ve supported 12 ambitious young people into placements with the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Work and Pensions, as well as the Department of Education and many more. Over the course of their internship, they will not only become an integral part of a workforce promoting diversity, inclusion and social mobility, but also gain valuable knowledge and skills to being able to compete for permanent roles at the end of their first 12 months.
The practical stuff:
Drive Forward applicants have a whole range of support and information at their disposal. They work with a qualified Employment Consultant dedicated to providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. In many cases, it’s even more a question of making individual’s aware of the many transferable skills they already have. These include teamwork, decision making, leadership and creative problem solving. Candidates then had to demonstrate their skills and experience by providing written examples of up to 250 words. Examples included:
- Teamwork – Working effectively in a team to organise a tombola for Cancer Research UK;
- Effective communication – Stepping in to deescalate a precarious situation amongst friends;
- Decision making – Looking for various sources of information to decide on a qualification (website, current students, calling the college etc.);
- Decision making – Spotting one’s own anxieties after leaving for university and taking action to reduce stress levels; gaining the correct information and being able to make the right decision for oneself (e.g. postpone further education for one year)
Give an example of a time when you have worked as part of team to overcome barriers to deliver a successful outcome.
While taking a group of children on a daytrip in their summer holiday a barrier arose to a planned visit to a museum when a member of staff unexpectedly had to leave. This unpredictable situation now meant that there were not enough staff available to escort this large group of children safely around the museum.
The remaining three staff had the task of finding an alternative solution so that the day trip would not be a disappointment while making sure the children were suitably occupied until the end of the day. Our initial response was to simply go back to the office. However, this would have been disappointing for children who had been looking forward to this trip.
I acted by calling the office, explained the situation to my manager, and proposed an alternative solution. This was to take the children into the museum garden where they would be visible to the remaining staff at all times, and keep them occupied with games.
My two colleagues cooperated with me improvising various quizzes and activities, motivating the children with a scoring system and improvised prizes. We ensured that children from diverse backgrounds were included, for instance with activities that met the needs of a hyperactive child with autism.
The result was that as well as informing parents that there had been a change of plan, many children said that playing in the garden on a sunny afternoon was better that going into the museum.
A competency-based application is but the first hurdle individuals have to overcome in order to gain a placement within the civil service. Once they’ve successfully submitted their application, they’re invited to an interview, undoubtedly the most dreadful part of any application process for most people. In order to help our candidate to combat their fears and successfully tackle their trembling nerves, Drive Forward offers bespoke support and interview practice. In this case, we were joined by civil service professionals and people who had currently been on the internship scheme to share their experience of the application process as well as some practical tips.
Interacting with people who are currently working within the civil service takes away some of the anxiety many young people face when it comes to going into a new environment. Listening to their experience and hearing about their day-to-day jobs, helps them to put the opportunity ahead of them into perspective and approach it more calmly.
Once an applicant has been accepted onto the programme, our support doesn’t stop. Drive Forward’s Employment Consultants will still be available to provide emotional as well as practical support to help young individuals tackle the daily challenges of juggling work and life. We further offer all individuals going into employment the option of getting a professional mentor, somebody who is there to listen and help them progress in their careers.
To learn more about the Care Leaver Internship Scheme and how Drive Forward can support a young person get in touch with Felix at firstname.lastname@example.org