National Graduate Development Programme

East Staffordshire Borough Council is a current partner of the national graduate development programme for local government (ngdp). If you are interested in learning more about graduate opportunities in local government, visit the ngdp website: www.ngdp.org.uk

An interview with our first National Management Trainee, Thomas Deery

Why did you join the ngdp?

I joined the ngdp because it sounded like a fantastic way of beginning a Local Government career and my experience has certainly lived up to that. Many other job prospects for university leavers require certain levels of experience or post-graduate qualification, however the ngdp was much more open with its requirements. This enabled me to enter the scheme with no idea as to which areas of Local Government I wanted to work in and then allowed me to experience them all. The ngdp operates on a placement basis whereby during a 2 year period I was able to work across many different services and really understand Local Government and where I wanted to go next.

What placements did you undertake at ESBC?

My first placement was shared between Enforcement and Environmental Health which enabled me to gain an initial insight into the Council’s regulatory services and through that understand the wider activities of the Council. My second was spread across what was the ‘Built Environment’ portfolio and this involved working in Waste Management, Neighbourhood Working and Open Spaces, and the Council’s Enterprise team (economic regeneration). The third, and final, placement was with the Council’s Programmes and Transformation team who are responsible for communications, procurement, business transformation and pretty much anything else!

As part of this, I experienced both frontline and back office services which provided a real appreciation for the operations of the Council and helped me to understand where I wanted to go next.

What placement/project did you find most challenging/what was your favourite?

My first placement (Enforcement) was probably the most challenging simply because everything was new to me and there was a lot of technical information to take in. There are a lot of transferable skills when you’re working in Local Government and so following my first couple of placements it was much easier to pick up new areas of work and learn quickly.

My favourite placements were probably my final two – Enterprise & Programmes and Transformation. A lot of this comes down to where I was with my development towards the end of the ngdp scheme, but the two placements provided a lot of exposure with senior Officers, Members and the public. Additionally, I was able to get involved with some significant pieces of work which had a real impact and that inherently makes the project more fun.

How do you think you developed over the course of the programme?

I had just finished my degree in Politics when I first joined the Council but I still knew very little about how Local Government works. It’s easy to look back now and see that I developed over the two years however between the work I was involved in, the learning and development with the LGA and the support from the Council, I felt that my development was substantial every month. This could be simple and generic in terms of learning more about Local Government or it could be role specific such as learning about project management. When you’re on the ngdp, you’re kind of thrown in the deep end but given so much support to enhance your learning and development.

What is East Staffordshire Borough Council (ESBC) like as an employer? Would you recommend ESBC to other NMTs?

One of the main benefits to being on the ngdp is that you’re on the scheme in a cohort with a number of other people at other Councils across the Country. For me, there were about 90 other trainees at Councils from the London Boroughs to Scotland. As such, you learn a lot about other people’s experiences and it’s hard not to compare them to your own. At the first cohort meeting, there were many trainees at the London based Councils but by the end, there were much fewer because their experiences were just not what they wanted.

ESBC as an employer was everything I could have wanted it to be, so much so that I stuck around after! Larger or unitary authorities, such as the London Councils, have so many staff and layers of hierarchy, that it’s easy to get lost in the midst of everything else. At ESBC, I have been supported by strong middle and senior management teams who afforded me the opportunity to work on projects that I wouldn’t necessarily have exposure to if I weren’t on the ngdp scheme.

I’d recommend ESBC without a doubt. I’ve learned so much in my time here and been involved in many good work opportunities, something that will be crucial for any aspiring Local Government manager. There’s no such thing as ‘business as usual’ at ESBC; the Council is always striving for more and it’s great to be a part of that.

What are you doing now?

Since the end of my two years on the ngdp scheme, I’ve still managed to enjoy working in a variety of roles. Currently, I’m working in the Enterprise team as a Senior Enterprise Officer where the primary focus of my work is on the physical regeneration of the Borough. It’s an exciting time to be working in regeneration and a perfect role for me at this point in my career, but from here, who knows!