Sevenoaks Town Council Project Internship

By Grace Couch (School of Politics and International Relations)

Through the Employability Points Scheme at the University of Kent I have been lucky enough to undertake 8 weeks in the Central Services Office at Sevenoaks Town Council. Not only was the interview a great experience to set me up for future job applications in this industry, but the insight and skills I have gained have been invaluable. When reflecting on the skills that I can now add to my CV, it is amazing how many different experiences and opportunities I have been given in different areas. I can look back on my time here from two perspectives: firstly, gaining a greater understanding of the council structure and practices within the public sector, and second, office workspace skills and experience. Although it seems simple, the dynamics of an office and the interaction between different departments is that which cannot be learnt, only understood through experience. I have proven my skills in following instructions and completing tasks to a deadline, as well as knowing when to speak up or include my own input. Office etiquette was something I was nervous about, especially as a student with a social development disorder. Having been told by an employer at an alumni panel that basic office skills are a key criterion in graduates, I was keen to get stuck in.

My primary responsibility has been carrying out administrative tasks for other members of the team, such as research, filing, organising meeting agendas and event planning. Being involved in events has given me transferable skills that I can take into my society roles and future jobs, as I have been shown best practice for these tasks. I have also been able to demonstrate my skills in creating social media content and posters to promote events, such as Independent Shopping Day and the launch of the Community Rail Partnership on the Sevenoaks-Swanley Line. It’s fantastic to see my work being used at these events, especially an idea I put forward for a community art project that is now being implemented.

Over the last few weeks I have also been invited to attend events and represent the town council, improving my confidence in professional situations. These have included grand opening events, contractor site visits and workshops at the new station. I have been able to network with the councillors and gain a greater understanding of their role, especially considering the recent elections changing the political makeup of the council. I have also shadowed the Town Clerk, further increasing my understanding of the different roles within the council and ‘who does what’. Alongside this, I have been heavily involved in the Heritage Lottery funded activity plan for the restored Bat & Ball station. This has included helping run workshops for school children, increasing their understanding of the Victorian history of the building, as well as living and travelling at the time. It was great to work with local children and other stakeholders, and see the outcome of a council project that has had massively positive impact e.g. reducing crime in the area by 80%. This also demonstrated the wider work the council undertakes and how it benefits residents.

As a project intern, my main task over the summer involved researching and writing a report on the STC vision for a proposed ‘Cultural Quarter’ in the town as part of the Neighbourhood Development Plan. As one of the policies to be approved through local referendum, the report gives further detail on the aims and aspirations of the council. This included meeting with the Town Clerk to discuss interactive art ideas that would fit the ethos of the town and suggesting developments to the existing Sevenoaks ‘In Bloom’ programme found through my research. The 23-page document will now be used as an appendix to the NDP when released to the public for consultation and voting, showing the level of responsibility I was given. Similar tasks, such as a report on the proposed restored signal box for the station, have increased my confidence when working independently. I have learnt and developed both personally and professionally, which is a great way to enter my final year studying Politics and International relations. I have also had to gain the experience of making mistakes! Learning that this ok (as long as you work to rectify the situation) has been just as important, and I now feel I can approach new challenges with less apprehension.

The EP scheme has provided an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to undertake, as placements of this level are either ridiculously competitive or unavailable! I can confidently say I would like to pursue a career in the public sector, as the work at STC is both meaningful and purposeful. This was complemented by my experience shadowing within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – also gained through the EP scheme. Overall, I have been able to grasp ways of working and professional competencies that will stand me in good stead for future career prospects.