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From National Citizen Service to Civil Service

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Head and shoulders image of Dan Grishin
Dan Grishin

I first heard about National Citizen Service (NCS) back in 2012, when I was at school.

I admit I was initially a bit sceptical – spending four weeks of the summer holidays after my GCSEs with a group of strangers didn’t sound that appealing! However, after hearing all about the incredible things people had done on NCS and what graduates have gone on to do, I was sold. I signed up with a couple of my friends and I haven’t looked back.

What is NCS? Well, it's a unique opportunity open to all 16- and 17-year-olds across England and Northern Ireland.

NCS is about helping young people get ahead in life by learning new skills, meeting new people and making a difference. More broadly, NCS aims to create a more engaged and responsible society. NCS is made up of a series of phases.

Adventure, skills and social action

First, the Adventure Phase, where participants find themselves in a group of young people they’ve never met before and experience a range of exciting outdoor activities. I camped in the Peak District, went hiking and rock climbing and took part in  team-building activities with the other people in my group.

Boy swimming in river with group of young people and adults in helmets and outdoor gear on rock behind
A group of NCS participants take an outdoor challenge

After this is the Skills Phase. Young people are placed in uni-style accommodation and get the opportunity to learn life skills that make for a killer CV. They find themselves meeting organisations and important people from the local community. I took part in workshops on money management and higher education and visited Nottingham City Hall for a talk on the importance of registering to vote.

Next comes the Social Action Phase. Lasting two weeks, it gives young people the chance to make a difference to their local community by delivering their own social action project. This phase is crucial as it brings together the skills, confidence and awareness developed in the first two weeks. For my social action project, I worked to organise a music gig designed to break down the social barriers between young people who don’t normally socialise.

High point

These activities culminate in a graduation, where young people’s efforts and achievements are celebrated and showcased.

NCS was a brilliant experience and it really developed me as a person. The high point was definitely meeting amazing people from different backgrounds. Many of them have become my friends! And the biggest challenge was dealing with it all coming to an end when I graduated in 2013. But the experience, and what you have learned, stays with you. Besides, I haven’t left NCS behind. Since completing NCS, I’ve been heavily involved with the programme at a national level and have become an NCS leader.

I featured in the national NCS TV and billboard campaign in 2015, which showcased my story and my team’s social action project. I had the opportunity to film with spoken-word artist Suli Breaks and to meet Prince Charles and boxer Amir Khan as part of the campaign.

Points of Light

Then, I applied for a role at the Cabinet Office. And, due to the confidence I had developed through NCS and the skills I’d acquired, I was successful. I have spent the last seven months working in the Cabinet Office as a member of the team responsible for the Prime Minister’s Points of Light initiative, which celebrates volunteers across the country. Through this, I have had the opportunity to work at No. 10, support a young people’s network, manage a government website, and volunteer at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference!

I now hope to begin university this October, equipped with the wealth of knowledge and practical experience from NCS and working in the Civil Service.

I know I couldn’t be in a stronger position now, thanks to National Citizen Service. I would urge parents and guardians to encourage their children to sign up for what will undoubtedly be an unforgettable and rewarding experience, giving them a new outlook on life.

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  1. Comment by Clare posted on

    Seems to be only open to 16 and 17 years old in England!!?

  2. Comment by Nicola Halsall DWP Blackburn posted on

    very well done Dan. You have really worked hard to utilise the skills you attained through NCS and are justifiably reaping the rewards now. All the very best of luck to you. Stuart, I can understandt, to a point where your comments come from. Some of the most troubled kids are never going to take part in NCS. That being said, my nephew & niece both participated in NCS after they graduated from high school. Neither of them are middle class, both are from comprehensive schools & working class families and they both encountered people from vastly diverse backgrounds. The increase in their confidence was immesurable and when my daughter graduates from school I will also be recommending she participate.

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Dan for raising the profile of a scheme that I was totally unaware. I am really glad that you had found it a fantastic way in character building and for providing you with a platform to face future challenges. I wish you well for the future.

  4. Comment by S posted on

    I don't know Stuart, I appreciate your point about the decimation of the Youth Service but on reading into this, £50 for the whole programme seems great value and to make this accessible to a lot more than middle class parents and kids. I'll be mentally bookmarking the idea until my daughter is old enough to participate.

  5. Comment by Stuart Fear posted on

    As always, context is everything. This piece, predictably paints a positive picture and implies that the NCS scheme has somehow improved things. In reality it is a cheap alternative to something that REALLY worked. I'm sure NCS works well for many who take part, but it's, generally, full of middle-class kids who would find alternative opportunities if NCS didn't exist. It's effectively been put in place as youth services have been almost completely disappeared across the country as a result of the cuts. Youth services were staffed by trained/qualified professionals and were able to reach out to those who would never normally come across these opportunities giving them life chances they wouldn't otherwise have had. NCS is like a shiny Dinky toy....better than not having a toy, but we used to have a real car.

  6. Comment by Alex posted on

    Fantastic idea! My school used to run this kind of thing but teachers are generally too bound to be allowed to too busy to support!
    Is there anyway I can get involved in helping?

  7. Comment by Andy Bartram posted on

    A really interesting read, Dan. It's great to hear how rewarding you found the NCS and what it's helped you to achieve. I'll definitely recommend it to my children. Best of luck with your university studies and career.

  8. Comment by Jon posted on

    Well done, Dan!