Public Service Day 2021: Innovations in access to policing careers

On Wednesday 23 June we’ll be celebrating Public Service Day. The UN launched this international day in 2003 to celebrate the contributions those in the public sector and civil service make to our society. The theme for this year is ‘Innovating for a new era: Leveraging the role of technology for the future public service’.

Our University has delivered many innovations during the past two years of our regional police partnership and in April we launched Step Up to Policing. Our 10-week long level 3 course develops students’ academic skills and prepares them for their next steps towards a policing career. What’s more, it’s delivered completely online to provide accessibility to aspiring police officers across the region.

Step Up to Policing Course Leader, Phil Wagg, is a Recruitment Development Officer and has worked at Staffordshire University’s Institute of Policing for two years. He has recently achieved a Masters’ Degree in International Relations and is passionate about helping people to achieve their goals. In his spare time, he plays guitar and manages a junior football team. 

We sat down with Phil to find out how the first cohort got on. 

Hi Phil, how’re things going?

Yeah, good thanks. The Institute of Policing’s Recruitment Development Officers are all really busy, but the sun is shining, and the world seems to be getting back to some kind of normality. No complaints here. 

Can you tell us a bit about your role as a Recruitment Development Officer?

Our team engages with potential candidates from their initial enquiry, right up to enrolling them and carrying out their ID checks on their first day at university. We attend recruitment events to deliver talks about the PEQF and answer any questions, we check qualifications and provide advice to ensure candidates are eligible for funding. We work closely with our partners to plan and allocate places, complete eligibility checks and get the successful candidates enrolled with the university on time. We’re here to support our partner forces as they recruit onto the PEQF pathways into policing.

PEQF? Can you tell us what that is?

Absolutely, in 2018 the College of Policing launched the Policing Education Qualifications Framework which set out three entry routes into policing for new recruits. All new officers now need to be qualified to degree level, and the three pathways help them to get there. These include the Pre-Join Degree, Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), and Degree-Holder Entry Programme (DHEP). All of these routes require previous Level 3 qualifications such as A-Levels or BTECs, and we receive a large number of enquiries initially from candidates who would make great police officers but did not have sufficient qualifications to apply to any of the routes. This is why we designed the Step Up to Policing access course to meet the needs of these candidates and our regional police force partners.

So, you’ve just finished delivering to the first group of Step Up to Policing students.

Mmhmm, yep. The last 10 weeks have flown by!

How did it all go?

The course has gone surprisingly smoothly considering it was brand new. There were one or two minor technical difficulties which were to be expected from an online course, but all the students have been really enthusiastic and have engaged with the learning materials. 13 out of 14 passed their first assignment, and they will be handing in their second and final assignment on Monday 21 June which hopefully they will all pass. I am hoping for a 100% pass rate, so we will see what happens.

We’ve had a wide variety of individuals on the course. Some have had no formal education since leaving school, while others had achieved their A-Levels but wanted to build their confidence before embarking on Higher Education studies. Some of them are already working for the police in staff roles or as Special Constables, while others had no policing experience and were yet to apply.  

So it went better than expected?

I mean you always have high hopes for students on courses like this. They’re so driven and determined to do whatever it takes to get into their chosen careers. This was certainly no exception, and I was really impressed with all of the students. They took to some of the more complex concepts really well. It’s been nice to see that they can all achieve at this level with the right support and hopefully they will go on to succeed in HE.

What made you want to develop this course?

We wanted to give people a chance of achieving their career goals by removing barriers for them. For various reasons, individuals may not have progressed with education earlier in life, but that does not mean that they should be prevented from accessing HE as long as they have the willingness and motivation to do so, and have the right support to enable them to succeed. Unlike other access courses that are available, we wanted to make this course as accessible and as flexible as possible so that students could fit the learning around their work and family commitments. The entry fee is £300 which is way more affordable than any other access courses offered by other providers. We wanted to make the course policing-specific, rather than a generic HE access course, to help students be successful with their police applications. We also made it as short as possible to fit in with the fast recruitment timetable of our partner forces.

Who was involved in programme development?

I have been largely responsible for collating the learning materials, designing the structure of the course, the assignments and delivery, but I have had lots of help from a number of the Lecturers and Senior Lecturers who currently deliver on our other PEQF courses, my line manager, admin and IT support, and the programme manager of our existing Step Up to HE course.

What does the course involve/ what do students have to do?

Well, it’s a 10-week programme, with live lectures being delivered online every Tuesday. If students can’t make the live lectures, there are learning materials already available for them to access and complete in their own time. They have to complete two assignments, including a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation and a 1,000-word essay. This was quite a daunting prospect for some of the students at the start of the course, but we have specific sessions on how to tackle the assignments, and they all gave the first assignment a really good go. The course is built around supporting them to complete these assignments, and realising that as long as they plan properly and put the work in, they can achieve highly.

Oh, so people don’t need to travel to campus to take part.

No, its all online. We give them access to the Staffs Uni learning portal, Blackboard where they can access all the learning materials at any time, and we also give them an Office 365 account, which gives them access to all the tools they need to complete the assignments. It is entirely possible for a student to complete the course without interacting with the tutors at all. Although we highly recommend that the students attend the lectures and engage with tutors as this is a vital part of university study, and will enable them to get the most out of the course and a better chance of achieving high grades.

Is it true that you had people referred from the police for this course?

Absolutely, some of our partner forces had applicants who needed those level 3s to be eligible for the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship pathway into policing. We worked with our partner forces to identify candidates and we encouraged them to apply for the course. Our partner forces have a limited number of free spaces for each intake, but individuals can sign up via our website with a £300 entry fee.

What backgrounds have the students typically come from?

Honestly there is no typical. In this group we had some who were unemployed, a bartender, a prison officer, and some Special Constables.

That is a real mix. Now this is something I’m sure we all want to know. How did your students do?

Aha yes, of course. All I can say is that everyone will be handing in their final assignments today and then we can get on with marking. I’ll let you know when the grades have gone out to the students.

We look forward to hearing about how they’ve done! What does the future look like for Step Up to Policing?

We have three courses ready to run in August, November and March. We’re open for applications now. It’s my hope that in the future the course will grow to allow more opportunities for individuals who want to gain a level 3 qualification and progress on to Higher Education.

What does life after Step Up to Policing look like for your students?

They can pursue a number of different pathways into policing. They could apply for any of our Undergraduate policing courses at Staffs, and then progress onto the DHEP or Pre-Join entry routes on completion, or they could apply directly to the forces for entry onto the PCDA route. Whichever route they choose, I’m excited to hear about their journey and the impacts they go on to have in their communities.

What will you be doing between now and the next intake in August?

Taking a nice long summer holiday! Haha, no. I’ll be marking and providing feedback to my students. Then it’ll be time to prepare the next course for the August intake and review applications. A big priority for me will to also check the student feedback survey to refine the course and make it even better for future cohorts.

You can find out more about Step Up to Policing here.

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