Written by Chloe Youle – Communications and Engagement Officer (a student on the Change 100 programme)
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is providing students with a taste of the fire and rescue service, by offering them paid work experience placements in a number of different roles.
The students are part of Leonard Cheshire’s Change 100 programme, which RBFRS joined in 2017. The scheme brings together the UK’s top employers and talented students with disabilities or long-term health conditions to offer three months of paid work experience.
Trevor Ferguson, Chief Fire Officer at RBFRS, said: “The Change 100 scheme not only benefits its interns, but also enriches the Service. We have been delighted to welcome over the past two years, seven bright, intelligent and brilliant graduates into the Service.
“The Programme is just one of the ways we are maximising the diversity of our workforce, while welcoming incredibly talented individuals who bring creativity and forward thinking into the organisation. We would thoroughly recommend the programme to any employer or graduate considering it as a pathway to employment.”
This year’s five interns have been working throughout RBFRS’ support services, working in roles that are both versatile and rewarding. Two interns took on a role as Communications and Engagement Officers, writing articles and press releases, while monitoring incidents in real-time and updating the public on social media. Another intern is working as a Programme Office Assistant, supporting managers in delivering projects. The Chief Fire Officer is supported by an intern producing a corporate document, whilst another is in post within the finance team.
Victoria Passant, Programme Manager for Leonard Cheshire, said: “It’s been fantastic to see how Change 100 has grown over the past five years, from working with only seven employers in 2014 to 70 in 2018, giving over 400 disabled young people summer internship opportunities. Since launching we have seen the value our interns can add to their employers, as well as the opportunities they receive at organisations like RBFRS. We have learned that by offering the right support to both the young person, and the employer, you can make workplaces more inclusive and ensure employers capitalise on untapped talent.”
Although diverse, the aim of the programme is to support individuals with disabilities or long term health conditions by removing any barriers in the workplace to allow them to achieve their potential.
Many of the interns reported feeling an increase in their confidence in the workplace. Chloe Youle, Communications and Engagement intern, said “Just knowing that, through working with Change 100, my employers were making a decision to be more inclusive and aware of disabilities made it so much easier to start working with them. You can tell that the nature of the programme is important to both employer and employee.”
Shuvham Bhandari, Political and Financial Analyst intern, said: “I used to get nervous, but the internship opportunity has decreased the anxiety I feel around working with people. I feel much more open now.”
Whilst fostering a sense of self-assurance in the workplace, the programme also provides each intern with an insight into the corporate world. Chloe Hatton, also a Communications and Engagement intern, said: “I have learnt a lot from working alongside many like-minded, interesting people through the Change 100 scheme and my internship with RBFRS. Getting to do actual office work with tangible, positive results has been incredible.”
After the internship, many of the interns return to university or go on to similar jobs, carrying their newfound confidence and the skills they have learnt with them. Others, however, have taken up full-time employment with RBFRS.
Carmen Leung, former intern and now Capital Property Projects Assistant, joined RBFRS full-time in 2017 after becoming the Service’s very first Change 100 intern. Carmen said: “Change 100 is a really interesting programme with a really important concept: changing workplace views around speaking about disabilities. The most substantial opportunity it has given me is a career path that I otherwise would not have considered without the Change 100 programme.”
For more information about the Change 100 Programme, please visit: leonardcheshire.org/change100.