New joiners Cath and Josh talk Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA)
Thames Valley Police, in partnership with Bucks New University, introduced our first cohort of PCDA student officers 10 weeks ago, on 23rd November 2020. This new Police Officer entry route attracted people from all walks of life; men and women with previous experience including a community mental health support, the army, retail and leisure, schools behaviour support, foster care and the prison service. During Week 9 we caught up with the youngest and oldest members of the cohort; Josh (19) and Catherine (44) to find out how it’s been going.
Hello to both of you, how does it feel being at the polar ends of age range within your group?
Cath: Naturally when you’re joining any new organisation you wonder if you’ll fit in, but I felt welcomed and accepted very quickly, my age hasn’t really come into it and I like to think I bring some life experience with me.
Josh: I felt a little nervous at first, I did wonder if I was too young but age is not a factor and everyone is assessed on the same criteria. Even though there are people older and with more work experience we’re all starting on a level playing field and can help each other on different aspects.
Cath, you finally applied to policing after several years of consideration – how did it feel to finally put the Uniform on?
Cath: Surreal, it was definitely a moment when it became real and solidified that it was finally happening. I’d started my police application form several times over the years, but for whatever reason the timing wasn’t right … but now it is. I couldn’t wait to get started.
Josh: Surreal is the right word, it certainly makes you stand a bit taller.
You’ve both joined during Covid-19, how has that impacted your training?
Josh: Pre-Covid all initial learning was done at Sulhamstead (TVP’s Training Centre) but it has been adapted; so we do a week there, then a week’s online learning from home.
Cath: It’s certainly added a degree of complexity, we have to observe distancing rules and wear masks during practical’s but everyone has been in the same boat, adapted and been supportive.
Camaraderie amongst cohorts is important, how have you maintained that?
Cath: Seeing each other during Microsoft Teams calls helps, plus we’ve had WhatsApp groups – we seem to have developed a good rapport between us despite the circumstances and we’re all very like-minded people even though we are all very different and bring different experience.
Tell us about the training you’ve done in the first few weeks.
Josh: We’ve covered a lot already; Powers and Legislation, Interviews & Statements, looking at the more common offences, the National decision Making Model, Radio and Body Worn Video, Crime Recording, Investigation, Intelligence and evidence.
Cath: It’s been a blend of theory and practical inputs too, we had a day with a Crime Scene Investigator which was fascinating. The operationally focussed days are great.
Josh: I really enjoyed the Officer Safety Training, learning self-defence techniques was at first daunting but you get used to running scenarios and it’s a safe space, non-judgemental, where the focus is on improvement.
What have you both found challenging?
Cath: For me, getting back into a ‘classroom’ mind-set where you write academically – it’s an important element of our learning but the tutors have been really supportive and you start with the basics, then build from there.
Josh: Yes, writing at degree standard even though I’d done A ‘Levels is definitely a step-up, it takes some getting used to but it helps reinforce what you are learning.
What do you have coming up in the course that you’re looking forward to?
Josh: We have a first aide element which I’m really excited about, there is the potential to become a police medic later on as one of your additional skills which really appeals.
Cath: For me the driving course, I can’t wait to learn the techniques of response driving.
Cath, you’re juggling motherhood alongside your PCDA – how are you finding it?
Cath: I am lucky, I have older teenage daughters who help with my younger son. They know this is something I’ve always wanted and are being really helpful. There is no doubt you have to be organised. My son was as excited as I was when he saw me in uniform.
What advice do you have to others who might be considering a policing career via the PCDA?
Josh: I knew I wanted a uniformed career, something where every day was different but I never thought I’d be selected – take each step of the application process at a time. It has enabled me at 19 to earn a good salary whilst I learn, allowing me to move out and live on my own, I’d encourage anyone with the ambition to apply. I would’ve joined policing any way but having the learning accredited with a degree qualification is a bonus.
Cath: Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. I have come into policing with no preconceptions, I’m not limiting myself and can’t wait to see what opportunities lie ahead. For my children I’m showing them you’re never too old to achieve an ambition or learn something new. For now it’s about focussing on each day as it comes and doing my best.
About the PCDA
The PCDA is a 3-year programme of initial learning aimed at those who do not have a degree qualification already. It is a blended learning programme, with the majority of training done ‘on the job’.
Police Officer recruitment is currently closed, we will be opening recruitment for the PCDA later this year but expressions of interest are welcome on the Force’s Talent Bank online, which can be accessed with the dedicated TVP Careers website.
You do not need a degree to apply to become a police officer. Applicants must be 17 years or older at the time of application, and 18 when they start training.
TVP aspires to truly represent the communities we serve and encourages applications from those within our Black, Asian and multi-ethnic communities. The Force has introduced a Positive Action and Engagement Team made up of five serving officers, focused on building engagement in our under-represented communities and encouraging people from BAME communities to consider a career in policing. As well as focusing on outreach work, the team supports applicants through the recruitment process and subsequently with their professional development and progression once they have joined. To learn more about our Positive Action and Engagement Team, please visit our Valuing Difference page.