Meet the Graduates

Find out about the Graduate Programme from those who know it best

The following people have all completed the Graduate Programme before taking a further step into a career in the public sector:

Catherine Paddon - Prevention and Protection Project Officer

Josh Ashford - Project and Research Officer

Shannon English - Policy Officer

The following people shared their experiences while they were still on the Graduate Programme – see what they have to say about how they were finding the experience:

James Devine - Graduate Programme 2017-19

Eli Sanyari - Graduate Programme 2017-19

Megan Lloyd - Graduate Programme 2017-19

 

Catherine Paddon, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What roles did you undertake during the graduate programme?

During my time on the Suffolk Graduate Partnership scheme I was part of several teams across three local authorities:

  • Customer Services at East Suffolk Council
  • Policy and Programme Team at West Suffolk Council
  • Prevention and Public Safety at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

My responsibilities across the three authorities were incredibly varied over the two-year programme. To provide an example of the variety: in one placement I was tasked with the weekly creation of an authority-wide newsletter to send to employees, councillors and community partners to inform them of any policy changes. Another was the creation and management of a project to analyse how effective we are at preventing fires in Suffolk. The tasks and projects that were assigned to me ranged widely and no two days were ever quite the same.

What were some of the highlights of your experience on the graduate programme?

One of the highlights was getting to work with the people I worked with. I met some of the most passionate people I have ever met; all with a love for local government and a commitment to what we do across the county as local authorities.

What impact has your experience as part of the graduate programme had on you?

Two years ago, I had no clue about accurate project management, working in a political environment or even how to do a desk job! I have learnt a massive amount about the world of work and all the different skills and talents a successful local government employee must have. I have also learnt a variety of ‘soft skills’ around communication and interpersonal relationships that I would never have picked up at university or working in my previous field.

What motivated you to apply for the scheme in the first place?

I thought that the scheme looked innovative and like it would provide me with the step up my career would need as I left university.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Be clear in your mind about both what you can bring to the scheme, but also what the scheme can bring to you. Be open minded about the opportunities and try to be proactive in your approach.

And finally…what are you up to now?

The programme has given me a very broad experience of roles and responsibilities, ones I would not have attained in such a short time period had I not been on the scheme. I really value the investment in training and the efforts to prepare us for a varied and fulfilling career both in the public sector and in the private sector should we choose to move on. The programme has given me the confidence to value my ability and to be more assertive when promoting my own abilities or what I want in the workplace. I don’t feel that I would have achieved this had it not been for the scheme.

Josh Ashford, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What roles did you undertake during the graduate programme?

Policy Officer at West Suffolk Council – My first placement was with the Policy Team at West Suffolk. I led and supported a variety of projects and work streams including the creation of the wards for the new West Suffolk Council, updating and merging supplementary planning documents, updating the Council Tax Reduction scheme and creating a “Rurality Index” for each settlement in West Suffolk

Trading Standards Scam Prevention Support Officer at Suffolk County Council– My second placement was with the Trading Standards team, who are based in Ipswich but cover the whole of Suffolk. My time here was spent supporting the lead scam prevention officer and leading on the development of a Loneliness Prevention Strategy. Both pieces of work enabled me to meet lots of new internal and external partners, and to see first-hand the extent of work in areas covered by Suffolk County Council.

Adult Community Service Contract Management Support Officer at Suffolk County CouncilMy third placement was with the ACS Contract Management team at Suffolk County Council. My task was to develop a scoring system to be used to rank domiciliary care providers in Suffolk. This would inform who we awarded domiciliary care contracts to. Additionally, I also produced and then mapped a risk analysis for the new contract (based on how many providers were entering or leaving an area), assisted with the auditing of one of the largest Suffolk providers “health checks”.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, Information Management Analyst –My final placement was in the Information Management team at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils. The previous year spent working at a county council before moving back to work at a district council gave me a new appreciation of how different the pressure and challenges are at different levels of local government. My time in the Information Management team was spent reviewing processes, analysing and presenting internal data and information, writing data management policies and supporting other service areas by running regular reports.

What were some of the highlights of your experience on the graduate programme?

My highlights for the last two years include developing skills (such as public speaking) that were completely outside of my comfort zone when I started as well as gaining a better idea of the field of work I wish to pursue as a career. I’ve also made friends who I’ve met through the graduate programme.

What impact has your experience as part of the graduate programme had on you?

I have gained many technical skills including data analysis, report writing, sentiment analysis, process mapping, geographic mapping, project management skills and presentation skills. I have also developed my soft skills like networking, communicating, time management and problem solving. The development of these skills has helped me grow in confidence. This has had an impact on my working behaviour as I now feel able to take on important tasks that have a lot of eyes on them; I found it also had an impact when I started to look for post-graduate programme roles as I now had a better understanding and belief in the skillsets I can provide.

What impact did you have on your organisation(s) during the programme?

I found that as the graduate programme went on, the impact I was having was becoming increasingly evident at a faster rate. At West Suffolk and ACS, I was able to provide some technical skills, particularly around data and Microsoft Applications, that were either not in the team or the individuals with the skills did not have any capacity to pick up the backlog of activities. The Policy Team at West Suffolk was quite small so the main impact I had was increasing the capacity in the team and getting a backlog of activities progressing. This in turn led to more specialised work and the team were able to get more bespoke policy or data analysis to the different services. At ACS, my main impact was to get the Key Performance Indicator Project progressing by taking the lead and upskilling some colleagues in DAX and workflow applications.

What motivated you to apply for the scheme in the first place?

After leaving university I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I knew I wanted to work for an organisation that has a beneficial impact on peoples’ lives. At first, I did a ‘Get into Teaching’ scheme for a year and after deciding that wasn’t for me I applied for the Suffolk Graduate Programme. The programme appealed to me because all the partners were public sector organisations, I was raised in Suffolk, and I saw it as a good way to give back. I also felt the diversity of the partners would make for a great experience.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

My advice would be to be open to new experiences and challenges that will inevitably present themselves when you are on the programme. It would also help if you enjoy being put outside your comfort zone and facing new challenges.

And finally…what are you up to now?

I am now the Intelligence and Insights Lead for the Digital Transformation and Improvement team at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils. The graduate programme helped me get this role. The subject I read at university was History and Politics, so the jump to insights and analysis was quite a big one but I had developed the skills I needed over the past two years. While the job hunt after the graduate programme was still definitely a slog, I found I was being more successful than I was post-university. Not only was I receiving more interview offers, but I was also finding it easier to filter out certain jobs as I knew what I would be suitable for and would want to do. 

 

Shannon English, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What roles did you undertake during the graduate programme?

I did four different placements during my time on the graduate scheme. I had a very different role in each, including working on briefings for senior councillors in the policy team, rolling out a new transport policy in Adult and Community Services, designing an induction process and handbook for new councillors in Democratic Services, and developing an app leading users on historical walks for Suffolk Record Office.

What were some of the highlights of your experience on the graduate programme?

One project I did for the Suffolk Record Office was a community-led time capsule to be buried in Felixstowe. Co-ordinating the project meant that I needed to contact lots of different community organisations and offer them easy ways to be involved. I designed custom lessons about the history of Felixstowe and delivered them in schools. I learned how to facilitate reminiscence sessions and went into nursing homes to capture older people’s memories of the town. I also had to work closely with the town and district councils to make sure they were involved. It resulted in a really great time capsule that lots of people in the town were excited about and came together to create.

What impact has your experience as part of the graduate programme had on you?

Changing placements and starting from scratch in a new role so frequently has been really good for my confidence and adaptability. I don’t feel worried when I start a new role now.

What impact did you have on your organisation(s) during the programme?

I brought new perspectives and ways of thinking to my host teams. For example, I designed new children’s mascots for Suffolk Record Office and designed custom children’s activities around these mascots. This increased engagement with children and families at events like the Suffolk Show or the Ipswich Maritime Festival, which meant we were able to help people understand what services the Record Office provides.

What motivated you to apply for the scheme in the first place?

After university, I wasn’t quite sure what career path I wanted to follow. The idea of a rotational graduate scheme where you can try out different things and find your preferred specialty really appealed to me. I chose local government in particular because I enjoy the feeling of making a difference in the work I do. Local government is all about improving life for people in the local area, and it does make a difference to the way you feel about your work.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Be willing to have a go at different roles in different departments. Every placement, even if it’s one you might think you won’t enjoy, will offer you a new point of view you hadn’t considered before.

And finally…what are you up to now?

The graduate programme gave me a really wide range of skills, gave me a lot more confidence and adaptability in new roles, and also helped me to build up a really good network of contacts across the public sector in Suffolk. I am now a Policy Officer in the Suffolk County Council Policy Team, and having done good work for the team previously while I was on a placement for the graduate programme really helped.

 

James Devine, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What is your role within your organisation?

My current placement is with the Digital Content Team with Suffolk County Council. Our current priority is redesigning all online content for Adult Social Services. Tasks include writing clear copy; liaising with services on web function requirements; designing web pages; creating web page mock-ups; working with web developers; using google analytics; using SEO and search principles; using content management systems; editing web pages.  

What have been some of the highlights of your time on the programme? 

The ability to work in different services with different teams on different projects. We’ve learnt a lot about what councils provide. It’s given us the opportunity to discover what sort of work we prefer doing. 

What impact do you think the experience has had on you?

I’m more confident, with good experience in project support and administration across departments. 

What impact do you think you have had on the organisation? 

I’ve contributed to big projects in small ways. The work I’m currently doing is part of the ACS Demand Management programme that will help us manage our resources better to help those needing support. Last summer, I assisted with various audits to counter internal fraud within the organisation which has resulted in the council recouping money lost to fraud, as well as preventing potential future cases.  

What made you apply to a position at the council? 

I liked the rotational structure of the scheme as I felt it would provide a broad experience, allowing me to work in different services and discover what sort of work I’m attracted to. The qualification was also attractive.  

What advice would you give to future applicants? 

There’s a new experience just around the corner so don’t get too disheartened if you’re not enjoying your current work. Speak to your manager if you are interested in something or would like to try something else out – managers are generally very encouraging and accommodating. 

 

Eli Sanyari, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What is your role within your organisation?

I am a Graduate Project Officer, basically picking up anything and everything. I have worked in Environmental Protection, Comms, Customer Services, HR, and I’m currently involved in Procurement. There is an expectation to inject new ideas into the council – look at the current processes and see if there are any innovative ways to improve them. My major responsibility was with the Children in Care Team, looking at exclusions and interviewing children to see what the impact is. So far, I have worked across departments in multiple authorities – Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk, Bain and CYP. 

What have been some of the highlights of your time on the programme? 

Visiting the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in London, which included a keynote speech from the Head of National Cyber Security. Outside of the trips/experiences, having an actual impact has been a highlight through working with the Children in Care Team leaving a lasting impression. The council has very high expectations, so it’s important to quickly learn to perform to a really high standard.

What impact do you think the experience has had on you?

I’ve learned leadership skills – I came to the Graduate Programme fresh out of uni where your biggest accomplishment is making pasta pesto. I’m now in charge of leading whole projects, becoming an expert in my field, taking charge of my team. I’ve also learned communication skills – learning to network with stakeholders. Public speaking and self-confidence have massively improved through presentations and talks. You are really propelled into projects which means you build your skills along the way.

What impact do you think you have had on your organisation(s)? 

Personally, I have had lots of little impacts across Suffolk. Working at multiple different authorities has allowed me to form connections between employees at different organisations who would not have otherwise interacted – this helps the councils to grow together.

What made you apply to a position at the council? 

My interest in politics led me to speak to my MP, who suggested I join the local council grad scheme. The qualification earned by the end of the scheme is also a massive door opener. There is so much variety in the role – within two years I have been exposed to opportunities that I may not have been able to get in another role in over five. The graduate programme  has accelerated my personal and professional development tenfold. 

What advice would you give to future applicants? 

Come in with an open mind and be prepared to do anything and everything. Flexibility and a willingness to try new things will allow you to get the most out of this scheme. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, however. The expectations may be high, but everyone knows you have come straight from uni. Projects won’t always turn out exactly the way you want them to, but give yourself credit and know you’re doing the best you can. 

 

Megan Lloyd, Graduate Programme 2017-19

What is your role within your organisation?

My role is Graduate Project Officer. My responsibilities vary due to the nature of changing placements over the two-year programme; most similarly across all three areas I have worked in, I have supported numerous projects whilst also having the opportunity to lead on projects. My responsibility can range from general admin such as emails and booking meetings, researching and analysing data and leading on small piloted projects.

What have been some of the highlights of your time on the programme? 

I was able to lead on a Project for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils Customer Services Team where the team and I coordinated the construction of a new customer access service in partnership with Suffolk Libraries. I enjoyed being able to get first-hand Project Management experience whilst also creating a new service for the communities in Babergh and Mid Suffolk to use.  Another highlight for me has been getting to work with ACS within Suffolk County Council, I was involved in an accreditation process for Providers of Day, Evening and Weekends and Planned Breaks services. I enjoyed going out across the county to discover the opportunities that are in place for those with Learning Disabilities and Mental Ill Health.

What impact do you think the experience has had on you?

I have learnt a lot about myself over the course of the programme, I have definitely noticed my confidence in my work improve considerably and have developed a willingness to learn new things. I have gained and developed several skills whilst working at the council including, communication skills, report writing, project management and further developing my research and analytical skills. 

What impact do you think you have had on the organisation? 

I think the impact I have made on the organisation is small in the scale of the organisation but imperative in the teams I have worked within. I have been able to provide a fresh perspective to the projects I have worked on and have been able to use this perspective to influence the projects and work I have completed. I think this has impacted the teams I have worked within as I have been able to offer a view that they may not have considered. I believe it has been more about the impact on the people I have worked closely with rather than the organisation specifically.  

What made you apply to a position at the council? 

Working for the council was something that I had never really considered, I was lucky in receiving my first position in the Council whilst setting up some work experience to gain the office experience I lacked when I was offered a temporary paid position in one of the teams I had arranged to shadow during the work experience. I enjoyed this first role and worked within the same team for almost a year. It was through my manager’s encouragement that I applied for the Graduate Programme and I saw the position as an opportunity to develop as an individual and to learn about the wider aspects of Local Government. 

What advice would you give to future applicants? 

Local Government is much bigger than you might think, there are so many aspects to it. I would definitely take all the opportunities that come your way in your stride; go on training, ask to observe meetings, attend cabinet meetings. Don’t shy away from work/things you’ve never done before, always take the chance to learn something new.