'Sat across the table from me Joanne started to talk passionately about the frustrations she has faced since seeking asylum in the UK around seven years ago. Joanne is a fully trained and highly skilled midwife. Having fled persecution in her country of birth, she wished to become a midwife in the UK. However, due to the laws governing asylum seekers she wasn’t allowed to work until she was granted the right to remain, a process which can take years. Once she moved from seeking asylum to becoming a refugee, Joanne once again tried to get a job as a midwife. This time another problem arose. Joanne had been out of work for too long and was told that she would have to go back and re-train from scratch. Not a refresher course designed to allow refugees to transfer their skills and apply them effectively in the UK, but instead three years of fulltime training teaching Joanne what she already knew. With no money this was not an option. Joanne had missed out on a career which she loved and Sandwell had missed out on utilising the skills of one of its residents in an area where there is a shortage of workers.
Listening to Joanne and hearing stories of others like her brought to life some of the problems facing refugees; a human face to an often misrepresented group of people. Monday mornings aren’t supposed to be this interesting but working in local government has provided me with many opportunities to meet people from a range of backgrounds, to listen to their problems and then work as part of a team to help solve them. I was listening to Joanne at a conference hosted by the Scrutiny Unit at Sandwell MBC who are currently carrying out a review looking into the services provided to refugees and how they can be improved.
For the past few months I have been helping officers to organise the event and it was rewarding to see around 50 people engaged in such important and stimulating discussions. The final recommendations of the review will be published later in the year and will allow the borough to significantly improve the services provided for refugees, helping them to flourish in the difficult situations which they face. Although I have played a very small role in what will be a thorough and complex review it’s been rewarding work in which I have learnt a lot.
When I left university last year I had little idea of where to go. The variety of work which I have been able to witness taking place in local government and the numerous projects to which I have been able to contribute has now given me a better idea of what I want to do. Local government may have a reputation of red tape, men in grey suits and a life of being stuck behind a desk but I’ve found it to be a stimulating, varied and, whisper it quietly, exciting environment. I have also met many friendly and inspirational characters who will go out of their way to help others. If you’re a graduate and want something more rewarding than a company car and bonus at the end of the year then local government is a fantastic place to start looking.'
'Being on a graduate placement within KCC, I have to agree with the post above. I know with confidence that the work I am doing on the Innovations Team is slowly, but surely, changing the way that the organisation runs and the services that we provide to members of the public. It's extremely satisfying to know that my psychology background is directly useful in regards with our bid on anti social behaviour, that the gaming student we are working with could potentially design a successful game which changes people's recycling behaviour, and that by maintaining and editing this blog, I can help to inspire and bring together different people within Kent and beyond who are interested in 'innovation'. I am extremely proud to work for an organisation that puts its customers' wellbeing first, and with staff who are not only friendly and helpful, but have my career development in their best interests. So if you are interested in putting your degree to work and passionate about helping people, then you should seriously consider working in the public sector.'
- Kirsty Russell
- A special thank you to Matthew Genner, Graduate Trainee for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.
Picture: A black and white photo taken from a low angle showing a woman dressed in graduate robs throwing her graduation cap into the air with thanks to -Weng- for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.
• Subscribe to iNews
• E-mail us your ideas/thoughts
• Everyone Has A Story To Tell
• Could you be the next apprentice?
• Getting Young People Skilled Up