Check out the blog entries of some of our recent interns who have detailed some of their experiences at various stages over the course of their internship.
Grace Grant – Communications (Suffolk County Council)
This week I attended a seminar on how to manage relationships at work. This gave me an insight into the different types of teams operating at the Council, as well as giving me a chance to meet the senior leadership team and see how they worked. I also was able to sit in on a cabinet meeting and see the local government’s democratic process in action. This was interesting, as I could hear the important topics on the councillors’ agendas. Finally, I attended a We Are Listening event in Stowmarket, where I met the councillors, the Leader of the Council, and the Chief Executive of SCC, Nicola Beach. Not only was this a chance to leave the office, but I was also able to have meaningful conversations with some very senior members of the council’s operations team, leading to Nicola Beach arranging to meet with me 1-to-1.
This week, I met with Emma Davis, Digital Services Delivery Manager, to discuss the Fire Service’s app. This helped me understand how an app was developed to help suit their needs and create a more efficient service. Following this, I have researched and contacted other councils who have similar staff apps and made mock-ups for a potential staff app for SCC.
As part of my internship, I am refreshing the Council’s ASPIRE slogan. So, this week I attended a meeting with Janice Hickman, the Corporate Learning Partner for HR, to get her perspective on it. I also was given the chance to see how press releases and media requests are handled by the Comms team. It was interesting to see how the Council interacts with the local and national media.
This week, Nicola Beach recommended that I work personally with Councillor Mary Evans, the Deputy Leader of the Council. I was asked to analyse and record her email correspondence to identify why she was receiving such a large volume of emails. This gave me a valuable insight into how the elected remembers of the Council operate and the kind of issues they have to deal with. I also got invited to attend a Cabinet Member Briefing for Operational Highways & Transport Strategy, which I was very excited for.
This week, I attended a mock cabinet meeting as part of the internship programme. Along with some of the graduates, we were given roles as either council members, officers, or members of the opposition, and then had to stage a mock debate. I was appointed as a member of the opposition, and, along with two other interns, I thought of difficult questions to interrogate the ‘Council Members’ with. This was not only a fun day, but it also gave me the chance to meet an actual cabinet research assistant and hear her perspective on acting as an effective opposition.
This week, I got the chance to shadow Nicola Beach on a visit to a local charity, Turning Point. This extremely important charity promotes wellbeing support, and recovery from addiction. It was not only interesting to hear the good work they do for Suffolk residents, but to see the types of interactions Nicola had with them. Later, Nicola had lunch with me and one of the other interns where she explained her role to us in more detail and allowed us to ask any questions we had. The internship has given me some otherwise impossible opportunities to network with the most senior members of the county council.
This week, I attended a CLT (Corporate Leadership Team) meeting, a panel which hosts the most senior members of the council. During this meeting, I got to hear, first-hand, the current strategic issues affecting the organisation. I was given the chance to contribute to the discussion and ask questions as it progressed. The impression I received was that the council really care about the views of their interns and are interested in gaining the fresh outlook that we have.
Alex Wootton – Waste (Suffolk County Council)
Out of the office for two days visiting sites around Suffolk, getting to know the waste process within Suffolk through hands-on experience. Also networked with other interns at SCC and got briefed on our group project.
I began to be given projects to work on throughout the internship varying nicely so I get to understand lots of different functions of the waste team. Took part in conference calls with partners of the Suffolk Waste Partnership.
Helped tour year 8 children around the “Energy from Waste” facility. Used volunteering paid leave to attend a beach clean with the SCC Vegan Network. This week was also spent planning work on my main project for the summer.
Organised and ran two market stalls in different areas of the county educating people on how to reduce food waste. Attended an emotional intelligence workshop which gave insight how to manage tasks depending on your mood and emotion.
Assembled a smoothie bike and took it out to Ipswich market as a tool to draw people in to talk to them about reducing food waste. Also had a workshop on how to work in a political environment and the function of the County Council as a whole and the relationship it has with councillors.
This week was another training session this time focusing on developing a bounce-back ability. To end this week, I was at the Latitude Festival helping the team on our stand in the kids’ area with some recycling games and a few arts and crafts activities.
The hottest week of the year and I was grateful to be outside working on my main project for the internship. This week also involved a mock cabinet exercise where the interns came together and were given roles of officers or councillors and got to debate current topics working their way through actual cabinet.
Elena Handscombe – Trading Standards (Suffolk County Council)
I visited the BBC Radio Suffolk studio, and sat in on the bi-weekly drivetime segment between Mark Murphy and the Trading Standards Community Engagement Officer, Sasha Watson. They discussed the current scams operating in Suffolk and advised the public on how best to avoid them. It was really interesting to get a behind-the-scenes view of the department’s publicity projects. I have also been given administrative control of the social media accounts for Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Southend-On-Sea, and Essex’s Trading Standards departments.
I attended a meeting in Cambourne for the East of England Trading Standards Authorities (EETSA) Scams Focus Group. This included representatives from Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Thurrock, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Bedford, and Southend-On-Sea. We discussed the various incentives that each local authority is currently undertaking to try to counter rogue traders in their area, and shared intel regarding cross-county scams. It was fascinating to see how the different Local Authorities worked together, and to see the differences between how Suffolk’s department operated in contrast to the others.
I visited Felixstowe Port with the Imports Team. We had had intel on several products entering the country where there were concerns regarding their safety for the consumer market. We inspected the goods and decided to seize them, as their labelling did not comply with the national regulations. These were then taken to the lab for analysis. The results showed that, not only was the labelling non-compliant, but that the products were electronically faulty, and posed a significant safety risk. I really enjoyed this practical aspect of the job, as it felt like the work I was doing had a real, tangible impact. It was our decision to test the goods which prevented them entering the UK market, and therefore we had potentially stopped consumers from coming to harm.
I went ‘undercover’ to do food sampling. Along with one of the Senior Trading Standards Officers, I visited several premises across the county. We made test-purchases of goods, and then used the Trading Standards warrant to seize them and took them for formal analysis. During the trip, the Senior Officer I was accompanying described to me the different investigations and operations he had been involved in over the years. These varied from undercover projects to catch counterfeiters, to raiding shops selling illegal tobacco, to even bringing down multi-million-pound international fraud rings. The range of areas that Trading Standards covers is honestly incredible – there’s so much variety in the department’s work.
I was out in the morning visiting scam victims and discussing with them how best to protect themselves and avoid scams in the future. Seeing the effect that scams and financial fraud have on the lives of people in Suffolk was quite an emotional experience. Although there are, unfortunately, scammers who target the most vulnerable in society, it is good to know that Trading Standards and their partner organisations are doing everything they can to protect the people of Suffolk. In the afternoon, I visited a cattle farm which had previously received negative inspection reports. The farmer had made vast improvements to the welfare of his stock and passed the inspection with flying colours. Like this morning, the inspection this afternoon really reminded me how important the work that Trading Standards does is.
I was out of office again on another visit. This time, I and another officer were meeting people in Bury St Edmunds and Diss who live in the first No Cold Calling Zones that the Council had set up 10 years ago. The feedback we received was really positive, and everyone I spoke to said they had noticed a significant reduction in the number of cold callers they had had since the scheme began. No Cold Calling Zones are a major initiative for the Council, and hearing from the residents how much safer and more confident they felt really helped me understand why. As part of my internship, I have been creating, editing, and having printed a new information pack to be sent out to people in future zones. The knowledge that the work I am currently doing will leave a lasting legacy is probably my favourite part of the whole internship experience.