Kateryna’s Summer Internship in Local Government

Kateryna shares her experience of her internship as a Graduate Management Trainee in a city council working in the Inclusion Support Team.

There are many ways students can spend their long summers away from University. Starting a career, travelling, volunteering and actively networking are great stand-alone options, let alone how amazingly they can work together if you manage to secure experience that would provide you with all at once. My last summer as a student was my one-of-a-kind opportunity to take on challenge and experience all at once. I interned in a major city council as a Graduate Management Trainee. My Council was big enough to employ quite a few graduates every year, with opportunity for everyone to work in up to 4 teams throughout the 2-year course of their Graduate training. As an intern I was offered a 3-month glimpse into what graduate day-to-day working life would be like. I worked independently in the Inclusion Support team assisting with Autism Strategy and helping local services improve their accessibility for autistic children and adults throughout the City.

Experience in my team was very immersive and diverse. I did a lot of research into autism-friendly schemes and initiatives nationwide and locally, prepared briefings summarising our performance in national assessment frameworks and wrote recommendation papers suggesting how we can improve current practice. I attended a couple of autism support groups in the City where I had a chance to talk to local residents about current accessibility issues and collect their views on what could be improved. I also took an opportunity to attend project management training and a training in neurodiversity and special needs provided by a local special school. From time to time opportunities came up to work with different teams within the Council and I helped Education department expand their Local Offer list online. Local Offer is an important website all local councils in England are legally obliged to maintain, as it provides information for families and young people up to the age of 25 on disability accessible services in the local area. I encouraged local businesses and cultural venues to register on Local Offer of our City and helped them maintain their records on the system. Once a month I attended professional development sessions in other cities around the UK. These development sessions were organised by a programme called Change100 and were aimed at disabled students like me. Each session was not only a great opportunity to develop essential workplace skills, but also meet other disabled graduates and share our ideas and thoughts about our internships. Every time I was struggling to find specific disability-related information for my research I ended up asking my fellow Change100 trainees for help and support. Their advice and experience proved to be very valuable especially when I was looking for specific services I can suggest to my local residents.

Although I did not think of local government as a potential sector for my graduate career before I started working there, this experience changed my thinking and since I finished my internship in September I realised I miss the whole experience very much not least because I met wonderful and very open-minded people there. We had a great sense of community in the council and people were always ready to help and offered support with work as well as personal questions. I had a mentor who helped me revitalise my CV and apply for future roles. I also became a part of my council’s graduate network (as I said, there were quite a few of us) and we frequently had lunches together on working days and travelled together to other cities on weekends. Other graduates introduced me to charities and projects they were involved in and I helped with volunteering as well.

One of the most memorable moments of my experience was when I finalised my last research report on my last day and looked over it to check the spelling and structure of the document. This piece of research included everything I have learnt throughout the past 3 months and I suddenly realised how much my understanding of disability developed over this short period of time. It is not only valuable for me personally (I now use acquired knowledge in everyday life) but also helped my team identify areas of improvement in delivery of autism-friendly services and inspired future projects that will help local residents of the City to have access to a better provision. I feel very grateful to our Careers and Employability Service at Kent who introduced me to Change100 and supported my application to the programme, as well as Change100 team, who matched me this specific internship opportunity that had enormous impact on my career and personal development.