Wirral Borough Council: Providing quality employment opportunities for young people

Beth Wilson, Organisational Development Officer, Wirral Borough Council

At Wirral Borough Council, we strive to make a positive difference for all our residents and communities in Wirral, this is at the heart of what we do. Our employees lead the way at the forefront of this commitment and are supported, developed, and invested in as individuals. 

As part of this, we understand the importance of, and are committed to, creating quality opportunities for young people to start their career journeys. Young people are entering a job market characterised by uncertainty and volatility, which has only been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent CIPD research, showing that 43% of young people feel the pandemic has harmed their long-term career prospects, demonstrates the need for employers to take active steps to provide meaningful opportunities for young people to get their foot in the door.  

Our graduate and apprenticeship programmes are great opportunities that provide stepping stones for young people into the world of work. While our graduate programme enables those who have obtained a degree to translate their learning and skills into the workplace, our apprenticeship programme supports local care leavers into full-time employment.  

In recruiting to our programmes, we focus on identifying potential and transferable skills rather than previous work experience that many young people may not yet have had the chance to acquire. Graduate selection methods assess candidates on their strengths, attitude, ability to think creatively, and alignment with our organisational values, with our interview questions asking things like ‘what would your approach be?’ and ‘what skills and strengths would you bring?’. This ensures an inclusive approach that gives young people a chance to showcase their capabilities without the need for extensive workplace experience.  

The programmes themselves are structured and involve diverse placements in a range of services across the organisation. Alongside this, the graduate programme provides a variety of informal and formal development opportunities that seek to develop the graduate’s leadership skills and local government expertise. These include professional development sessions, shadowing opportunities, access to our senior leaders and the chance to work on high-profile organisational projects. Both graduates and apprentices also undertake an apprenticeship qualification relevant to their roles, which equips them with the knowledge, skills, and behaviours they need to succeed.   

Graduates and apprentices are supported throughout the programme by their placement managers and our Learning & Inclusion team. Placement managers provide day-to-day support, while colleagues in the Learning & Inclusion team monitor the programme, ensuring the right level of projects are being offered and that the graduates and apprentices have the time and necessary opportunities to successfully complete their qualifications. They are also allocated mentors to support their development over the programme. 

Ultimately, our graduate and apprenticeship programmes provide a fantastic development opportunity for young people, while also forming a key part of our talent management strategy, allowing us to play an active role in shaping our leaders of the future. Graduates and apprentices also bring us shorter-term business benefits by offering fresh insights that challenge the way we do things and encourage us to think differently about how we can best deliver for our residents. Attracting young people to the organisation also helps to ensure our workforce is representative of the residents that it serves and bolsters our talent pipeline for the future. 

As a previous Wirral Council graduate myself, I am a clear example of the impact the graduate programme can have on a young person. I joined the programme in 2019, straight out of university with limited work experience and no clear view of the path I wanted to take next. By allowing me to complete placements in different services across the council (including Organisational Development, Public Health, Children’s Services and Democratic Services), the programme allowed me to experience different roles and discover the career path that was the right fit for me.  

The programme provided me with a unique opportunity to work on exciting projects across the organisation, explore the complexities of local government, and develop heaps of transferable skills and experience. It challenged and supported me to think outside of the box and develop creative ideas for how we can continuously improve our offer to residents. All of which resulted in me securing a more senior position within the Council as an Organisational Development Officer earlier this year.  

My experience brings to life the positive impact our graduate and apprenticeship programmes have on young people and their careers – something that as an organisation we are incredibly proud of! The mutual benefits investing in young talent can have for both young people themselves and the business are plentiful. This is why we support the CIPD’s One Million Chances Campaign and hope more organisations across the UK will join us in providing quality employment opportunities for young people.  

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