During summer 2014 Sociology student Yasemin took part in the Public Sector Future Leaders Programme, an exclusive opportunity for students at the University of Birmingham. She gained experience at West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service and Birmingham City Council. Yasemin worked on an HR project and shares her experiences with us below.
I was lucky enough to experience the typical day of a HR employee at three organisations, who all play a vital part in protecting and serving the communities of the West Midlands.
West Midlands Police Headquarters
Not being an early riser, the 8am bustle of working professionals rushing through New Street Station was definitely a new experience for me! My first working commute consisted of a 10 minute queue for coffee and then trying to load google maps on my phone to find Lloyd House Police Headquarters (…then resorting to a taxi in an “I’m going to be late!!!!” panic).
When I finally arrived at Lloyd House I was able to meet the other students on the programme and we were then split up into our different project teams. I was on Workforce Strategy and so spent most of my time in the HR department. We were told we were on the previous ‘anti-terrorism floor’ and that the office windows were bomb proof (very comforting haha!)
As the first day was our induction, we got to visit Steelhouse Lane Police Station which was definitely the highlight of the whole week! Walking past people in custody and visiting actual prison cells was such an eye-opening experience…as was the Chief Police Officer lunging towards me in the interviewing room in a panic telling me not to lean against the wall due to pressure sensor pads which were about to set off a high security alarm (oops!)
The rest of the week at the police headquarters involved a 9-5 in the office, researching the existing HR structure of the organisation, brainstorming ideas with the other group members as to how we thought the police could collaborate with the fire service and the council to improve cost-efficiency and maintain resilience. A lot of our day would involve interviewing different members of staff throughout the HR department to find out their views on the current systems and what they thought of our ideas.
We even got to experience a HR away day, which involved talks about the experience of women in the police force, police interviewing techniques and my personal favourite – a personal safety training lesson. We learnt some valuable information on avoiding attacks and confrontation, as well as personal defence – which involved hitting someone in a padded suit with a police baton!
West Midlands Fire Headquarters
The Fire Headquarters involved an early morning commute to Duddeston train station and a short walk to the headquarters building. On our induction day we learnt about the different ranks and jobs within the fire service and we were all surprised to see how many different non-uniformed roles the fire service had. We would work mainly on the HR department floor at the hot desks – mostly we would be exploring the intranet for research purposes, interviewing both uniformed and non-uniformed staff and writing up our report for the three stakeholders. This was all with the help of the HR staff who were extremely welcoming, helpful and ready to answer any question or query we had!
Birmingham City Council
Our last week was at the council and was a very busy one, as we were bringing together all of the information we had collected at the other organisations and merging it into our report. We had our own desk within the HR section and spent most of our time sat writing up our report together. A few hours of the day were spent meeting up with some of the employees, such as the Occupational Health lead and gaining an insight into what they thought of the existing HR structures and their opinion on collaboration. It was really interesting to meet different employees and learn about the different roles they have within the organisation.
Would I do it again? I will admit I won’t miss those 6.45am starts….but I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and have gained an interesting insight into what these organisations do for the city I live in! I felt very proud to be able to produce and present a 10,000 word report filled with our own ideas to the HR directors of West Midlands Fire Headquarters, West Midlands Police Headquarters and Birmingham City Council.
It has also made me feel better prepared for the working life awaiting me when I finish university – and a HR job in the public sector is definitely one I am now considering for the future.