This piece was written by freelancer Charlie Duffield 

Are you a people person? Do you like tech? Are you motivated by serving others and making a difference? You may not have considered working for the police force, but the work carried out by public sector employees makes a real impact on our day to day life. That’s something which can’t be said for all careers.

In March 2018, 126,000 people were employed as police officers; if you grew up catching snippets of the television drama series The Bill, you’ll have a better, if slightly stereotypical view, of what a police officer does on a daily basis. However, aside from the uniformed officers, special constables and community support officers you see out on the streets, there are lots of support roles which are vital in making sure the police service runs efficiently and effectively. These include working as a librarian, in human resources or as an analyst, providing analytical support by collating and studying information to help reduce crime rates.

Even if you don’t want to be involved in frontline crime fighting, it’s worth investigating what other roles could be available. It’s likely that they’ll be something to suit your specific skillset and motivations. We chatted to Laura Jenkins, who used to work as the Senior IT Trainer with North Yorkshire Police, before she moved on to a career in marketing and PR. Working for the police force turned out to be an exciting and rewarding start to her career, which few people are aware of….

The police can be like real-life super heroes

For Laura, the police force represents justice, integrity and bravery. Both her grandfather and father worked as police constables, and her grandfather ultimately became a Detective Superintendent. Whilst Laura never saw herself on the beat as such – or being up close and personal with the action – she was curious about the other range of staff roles available. Luckily, an opportunity became available to apply for the role of Senior IT Trainer at North Yorkshire Police HQ, in Newby Wiske, and she seized the opportunity to walk the same halls as her grandfather had done before her.

There’s no set entry route…

Like lots of careers, there’s no one prescribed route to break in. Laura studied a post-graduate degree in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, which meant she met the qualifying criteria to be a trainer. Although completing her degree was a challenge, she embraced it and developed a particular interest in speech and language development, which led to her love of writing content and training materials.

However, lots of her colleagues were PETTLS (preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector) trained, but that qualification has since been replaced by the Level 3 Award in Education and Training. “While I can’t say that I personally experienced the more vocational route to becoming a trainer, my peers said they found the training to be practical and that it taught them invaluable, transferable skills. The great thing is, once you’re a trainer, you can teach a range of topics once you get your head around the core material.”

The police rely on a number of IT systems to keep the public safe

As a manager of a team of five trainers, Laura’s job primarily comprised of coordinating training schedules for the force. She had to make sure that there were enough training sessions running to meet demand, and that qualified trainers were available to lead the sessions on the specified dates. 

“It is incredibly important to ensure that the staff receive adequate training. While my colleague was responsible for onboarding new police constables and special officers, I made sure existing staff kept up to date with training for systems. Atop of that, I assisted the Strategic Managers to develop the force’s training strategy, attended meetings with key stakeholders to spearhead new training programmes, held weekly one-to-ones with my team, and attended and evaluated training sessions to identify what was working, and what needed improvement.” 

You need to be a fantastic communicator

The job is hard work, but worth every ounce of energy that you put in. The people are fantastic to work with, and it really helps if you have a good sense of humour.” As a Senior IT Trainer, it’s helpful if you’re great at organisation and prioritisation, but most importantly, you have to be confident in delivering dynamic training and presentations to groups of up to 20 delegates. It’s also really crucial that you can command and retain staff engagement with training materials.

Working in the public sector offers a real sense of achievement

“It’s a great industry – at the end of each working day, you know you’re working for a greater cause and serving the public in a meaningful way. Equally if you’re a bit of a tech-nerd like me, it’s fascinating to see the inner workings of a public service – but you have to be prepared to sign a non-disclosure, for security reasons. It’s kind of cool – I felt a bit like 007!”

Of course, there are challenges too. With budgets being cut, internal offices usually run a few versions behind when it comes to Microsoft Windows, which can be frustrating. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Depending on your role, you won’t have to work through the day and night…

Having to do shift work is perhaps one of the less enticing aspects of working for the police. But Laura’s role was contracted for the regular working hours of 9am to 5pm, with the option for flexible working. Working as a Senior IT Trainer offered a good work/life balance – and didn’t include the unsociable hours you might expect from more traditional policing roles. Her time was tracked using a timesheet, and although she had to be in the office for specified hours, she could be flexible in her arrival or departure either side of that.

“I was surprised by just how much I loved it!”

Laura was only employed on a fixed-term contract to cover maternity leave, and didn’t see a similar role reappear, and so ended up having to change industries.

“If I was still serving, I would probably have my eyes set on working in the control centre, and taking a step closer to being on the frontline. It is such a varied career, with plenty of opportunities to progress, either upwards or by side-stepping. Trainers become familiar with core IT systems which are used across the police force, so you’d be at an advantage when applying for other departments. The role provides a solid understanding of the tools of the trade.”

If you’re tempted to consider working for the police, either in a support or frontline capacity, you can find out more information here.