Aidan: National Graduate Development Programme

Aidan graduated with a degree from The University of Manchester in 2020, with a degree in Politics & International Relations. He now works as a National Management Trainee on the National Graduate Development Programme (Local Government) in the London Borough of Barnet.

Did you always know you wanted to work in this sector?

I didn’t always know I wanted to work in Local Government. I had an idea that I wanted to be in the public or charity sector, but my mind immediately went to the Civil Service. I found out about the programme by doing some research in my final year and it really appealed to me. There are far more roles and organisations out there than you are told about when you are young, and I was quite flexible when looking, as I didn’t have a ‘dream job’.

What is the structure of the scheme?

The programme is two years, and I move departments every six months. I spent my first six months in Greenspaces – helping with the parks – and I’m currently in Emergency Planning – helping with the pandemic response. I’m also doing a qualification in Leadership and Management with the other graduates on the programme, and it has been good to get to know other graduates. I’ve been working almost entirely from home because of the pandemic, which was difficult when I first started but has since grown on me – no commuting, no dressing up, more flexible hours, etc.

What does a normal day look like in your current role / placement?

It’s cliché, but every day is different. Recently, I’ve been helping to produce some of our emergency plans, so I talk to people across the council to decide what process we would follow during an incident and then I document the process, identify any gaps, run exercises, etc.

I would say my favourite thing about the scheme is the variety. I think I was surprised by how many different departments there are in the council – I never would have known they were involved in emergencies for example.

Would you recommend this graduate scheme for current students / recent graduates?

I would recommend the National Graduate Development Programme to others. I think it’s a good opportunity to try different things, earn a decent salary, and study towards a qualification. I think this scheme in particular is suited to people who want to help to deliver a service and improve everyday life for people in small ways.

What was the application and assessment process like?

The application process was, to be completely honest, painfully long, but this is the case with most graduate schemes. I submitted my application in December and received an offer in August the following year, though some of the delays were due to Coronavirus.

Applying for these schemes can feel like quite a mammoth task, but try to be open-minded and dedicate whatever time you can to applications. I would also say not to get too hung up on big names – the Civil Service, the Big Four, the BBC, JP Morgan, etc. It doesn’t always mean increased job satisfaction or even more money.

Do you have any advice for final year students going through the recruitment process?

It’s good to do some research about the role and the organisation so, for example, I read Barnet’s Corporate Plan before interviewing with them to figure out what their priorities were. Try to make use of the Careers Service – I did a practice interview with them before my actual interview – and you are only losing an hour max. It’s also worth remembering that this job doesn’t have to be your career for life – it can be something you try out for a year or two.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m not one hundred percent sure what my plans are for after I finish the scheme. I’m quite open-minded about what I do and I will see what opportunities there are when I’m coming to the end of my two years.