Modupe’s Story. Joining the Civil Service

Picture of Juno Schwarz

Juno Schwarz

Director of Fundraising & Communcations

Over the past few years, the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship scheme has gone from strength to strength.  A lot has happened since two of our young people started their first work placements with the civil service in 2016, and only four years down the line more than 500 internship opportunities across almost 20 government departments were offered to care-experienced young people all over the country. 

Our team is very proud that 50 young people have been successful with their applications in 2020 and will go on to join multiple government departments like the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education, the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office or HM Revenue & Customs. 

Important life decisions

Thinking back to your early 20s, did you know what you wanted to do with your life? For young people coming out of care, the years between their 18th and 25th birthday are pivotal. Before their local authority closes their case forever, these young people have to make sure that they are financially, emotionally, and practically stable. That means having a secure place to live, sufficient income, and a support network. However, actually making those decisions that will impact one’s life in the long-term is not an easy task.  

At 23 years old, Modupe had important questions on her mind, “I didn’t know whether I wanted to go to university, or whether I just wanted to get a job and build a career through that.” Our Employment Consultants are very familiar with this dilemma and are eager to support young people identify their life and career goals. Through our network of corporate partners, they can gain exposure to different industries, build experience, and develop a better idea of what is important to them.

An opportunity arises

Employment Consultant Felix met Modupe at Camden’s 16+ services in 2018. With financial stability, learning opportunities, and progression routes being very important to her, Modupe was soon motivated to apply for the Civil Service Care Leaver Scheme. Set up by the Department for Education and Drive Forward Foundation in 2016, the programme now offers exclusive internship opportunities for care leavers across the UK.  

That year, our team worked with c30 young people motivated to compete for one of the prestigious internships; only 12 of them would succeed.  

“I had a lot of support from Felix,” Modupe remembers. From compiling a comprehensive CV, to brainstorming examples for the application, to interview prep, Felix was there every step of the way. “On the day of my interview, he called me… he knew that I had to get shoes… I was going to go to Oxford Street, but Felix said ‘You’ve only got two hours. I’ll google a shoe shop that’s closer to you.’ I got my shoes, but didn’t take his advice to go straight to the interview. Instead, I went back home. I ended up getting to my interview 20 minutes late.”  

With her confidence knocked back significantly, Modupe did not get the internship that year. “I was really disappointed afterwards,” she recalls. Felix was quick to put her forward for another opportunity, but Modupe did not make it past the interview.

Learn from your mistakes and try again

Rejection, failure, and disappointment are all part of life. However, we are all able to learn from our mistakes. In 2019, the number of opportunities on the Civil Service Care Leaver Scheme had almost doubled. “This time, I made sure that I was like 40 minutes early for my interview,” Modupe recalls.  

Drive Forward had set up CV clinics, application workshops, and got support from previously successful candidates and civil service professionals happy to share their experience and advice. Including Modupe, an amazing 33 Drive Forward applicants gained a placement. 

Due to the pandemic, Modupe couldn’t start her new job immediately. “I joined NHSX in July this year. [It] is a pretty new department… there to help with the digital transformation of the NHS.”   

Modupe started out in user research before moving into delivery management. “One of the projects that I was involved in was the Covid-19 vaccinations… we went to speak to care home managers to find out whether there were any concerns about their staff getting the vaccine.”  

Starting a new job and integrating into a new team is a process that requires time and sensitivity. Doing so in 2020, from behind our screens, is a real challenge. “Working remotely is something that I definitely struggled with,” Modupe remembers. “I live by myself as well, so I felt like it was quite lonely.” The pandemic has increased feelings of loneliness in young people. Even prior to Coronavirus, research by charity Coram Voice found that nearly a quarter of care leavers reported feeling lonely most or all of the time. Lucky for Modupe, she had a supportive line-manager. “We made sure that we blocked out all my lunch breaks… I was able to make plans with friends and family to meet face-to-face, socially distanced, of course.”

Looking ahead

Now aged 25, Modupe is now leaving social services care for good. “[T]echnically, my Personal Advisor could close my case if she wanted to,” she says, “they’re waiting for me to accept a flat.” Modupe is aware that she is probably the exception to the rule, “I know loads of young people whose case got closed before they moved to their council flat. Their journeys went very differently… with less support comes lots of added stress.”  

Looking into the future Modupe feels like she has found a place with enough room to grow and progress. “This is my first role in government and there’s so many different roles and areas from policy to digital transformation… over the next year, I want to get comfortable within one specific role and then just grow from there.”  

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