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How the Civil Service Local Academy can help you fulfil your potential

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, A great place to work, Skilled people
An animated group of men and women seated and standing around a table while participating in a learning session at the Civil Service Local Academy.
A 'family' group taking part in an assignment at the Civil Service Local Academy

Civil Service Local (CS Local), part of the Cabinet Office, is a cross-departmental team based in locations around the UK. It brings together departments and agencies within localities and offers opportunities that bring the vision of A Brilliant Civil Service to life, encouraging more of us to be part of it. CS Local’s Academy programme is one such opportunity.

At CS Local we believe people can learn the skills they need given the opportunity and that everyone is a leader. To be a brilliant Civil Service we need all our talented people to reach their potential. The CS Local Academy is all about achieving that. What makes it so successful?

Over the last 7 years we have delivered 31 academies, helping more than 1,600 people on their leadership journey, and working with over 30 departments and agencies and 250 facilitators. In 2017/18, 39% of our delegates gained promotion within 12 months, and 43% took on new responsibilities back in their departments. In 2018/19 we are running 9 academies across the UK for delegates in first-line manager and middle-manager roles.

But it isn’t just about the numbers. Delegates work with people they have never met, who do different jobs, in different departments yet face many similar challenges. And that’s the point – developing the skills and behaviours that we all need to be effective collaborative leaders.

Academy 'families'

Delegates are placed in ‘families’ to work on a mix of tasks in the following months. They are challenged to leave their comfort zones, learn new skills and confront anxieties. Each team then pitches to a panel of senior ‘dragons’ its choice of a project to develop over the next 12 months.

To understand the magic of the Academy you need to hear from those who have been there. David McGilloway and Chris Bradshaw were part of the the Jesters family in the Academy, while Nahida Ahmed has been on both sides of the dragons’ den, first as a delegate, then a facilitator and now as a dragon herself. She is proof of how the Academy can re-orientate your career and aspirations if you go for it!

Academy 'dragon'

It isn’t just delegates who benefit from the Academy programme, as Joanne Hopkins, a senior leader with HM Passport Office, and now our CS Local Senior Responsible Officer for Wales, explains:

"When I agreed to be a ‘Dragon’ for the first Civil Service Local Wales Academy, I did so on the basis of learning and development, making a corporate contribution, and supporting an initiative for regionally based staff in Wales. What I had not appreciated was the impact that supporting this Academy would have on me.

“The whole ethos was one of support, encouragement and self-discovery. The teams worked together with coaches and facilitators to deliver a project to present to the dragons, who then chose which family to support. The words I heard as each ‘family’ presented were, ‘inspirational’, ‘humbling’, ‘incredible achievement’, ‘truly made a difference’, ‘emotional’ , ‘phenomenal’. My sense was that I had been part of something truly amazing.

"The impact on me was a realisation of my own leadership style, and the need to be open to fresh ideas. Instead of ‘this will not work’, it was ‘how can I make this work?’ – and a renewed enthusiasm to support talented civil servants and a better sense of how best to do it."

Lisa's story

As well as building confidence and making new contacts, the Academy is about how changed aspirations are turned into tangible results for individuals and their departments, as Lisa Baldock, an Administrative Officer for DWP, and a member of staff with significant hearing loss, discovered.

Attending with her hearing dog Inca, Lisa found the Academy experience both liberating and inspiring. This increased confidence and the encouragement try out new ideas has seen Lisa become a key contributor to embedding the use of Workplace Adjustment Passports in DWP. More specifically, she felt empowered to propose a change for managing telephone conferences, to enable staff with hearing loss to participate using a LYNC instant messaging system. This has already been implemented across four DWP directorates.

Line manager Naeem Rahman says: "Lisa has grown in confidence and is unafraid to offer ideas that can really make a difference in the workplace.”

Lisa has won a temporary promotion and in the 2018 New Year's Honours was awarded an MBE for services to People with Disabilities in Public Service

A woman standing at the top of a staircase, flanked by marble pillars and displaying the insignia of her MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in its case.
Lisa Baldock with her MBE

Inspiration and transformation

Attending an Academy is an investment for the longer term. Graduates continue to inspire colleagues in the workplace. Many are actively involved in transforming their departments, sharing knowledge, embedding the Civil Service vision, and developing new opportunities for colleagues.

In the Midlands, one alumni family has delivered workshops for over 350 civil servants on how to make the most of the end-to-end job application process. In 2018, an Academy family (the Chaffinches) from the East of England, London and South East won a prestigious Civil Service Award for their A-Z of Wellbeing; while graduates from the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber modular Academy celebrated one year of their successful iShadow project.

Sherene Caesar-Johnson, who joined our first Academy as an Executive Officer in 2012, reflects on the experience:

“I was happy in my job at the Department for Education, but my manager saw my potential and suggested I apply. The Academy opened my eyes to the breadth of the Civil Service. I was inspired by what I saw. I wanted to be a part of it. I was in a ‘family’ with people from different departments but we got on really well. For our project we developed a job-shadowing scheme that gave 42 people, 5 days’ experience in a different department. Delivering that project was incredibly empowering. I developed the confidence to try new ideas.

“After the Academy, I secured a new role and was accepted into the Fast Stream. Over the next 4 years I worked in a number of departments in the North West, building my skills and knowledge. I’m now a Grade 7. I’ve joined the CS Local team as project lead for the Northern Middle Managers Academy, because I feel passionately about helping others see their own potential and benefit as I did.”

Finally, in the words of one of our supporters: "Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, so don't think twice about attending an academy, just do it.”

If you're interested in finding out more, contact the Civil Service Local team in your area.

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  1. Comment by Rozanne Kidd posted on

    Reading Kathie's blog, the inspirational stories and follow up comments from many civil servants from wide range of backgrounds, departments and grades really embody what a brilliant Civil Service we are part of. As SRO for CS Local Scotland, I am really proud and excited about our inaugural Academy coming up in March. For those lucky enough to have a place, well done and for everyone In CS Scotland we hope these experiences will inspire you to reach out and get involved in all that CS Local has to offer you. Trust me - there's loads!!

  2. Comment by Gemma Harris posted on

    I was fortunate to be part of the very first NW academy in 2012. In fact I was in Sherene’s family (Hi Sherene and all other Tailor-Bakers for that matter :).

    Seven years on, 2 grades, 2 departments and a secondment to another, is honestly something I would not have achieved without the Academy and all things CS Local afterwards; experiences, lessons, advice and opportunity.

    They say good things come to those that wait and that may be true but actually good things come to those that work hard and take chances. It’s true. For those that haven’t already, where there is opportunity, get involved! Take the leap, you will not regret it.

    Now, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could celebrate all of the wonderful successes achieved as a result of the Academy together? Showcase everything that we’ve done…….. Mmmm, who knows? Maybe watch this space!

  3. Comment by Louise Withington posted on

    I attended the academy in the north-east back in 2015. IT was such a good experience and gave me a massive confidence boost. My 'family' were great too - we had a good bond and our skills really complimented each other. I think this is one of the best development activities I have undertaken to date and I would encourage anyone to get involved.

  4. Comment by Elaine Nash posted on

    I attended the 2018-2019 South Wales & West Academy. So far this year I have gained experience in presentation skills, project management and achieved great results in networking skills not only across Government but also with stakeholders and Veteran charities based in Wales. I have also had the privilege of meeting some amazing colleagues from other Government departments within my family (Team Mercury), which has grown into lasting friendships. Our journey has been amazing, where all our hard work throughout the year has resulted in us putting on an event at the Pierhead in Cardiff, on 19th March 2019.
    If you have the opportunity to attend the academy this year take it! It is the best decision I have made and would encourage anyone to sign up.

  5. Comment by Simon Williams posted on

    I was at the South Wales and West Academy in 2018. It's been great getting to know people from across the Civil Service, developing my own presentation skills and seeing how people can work together to achieve great things. It's helped me in my job role and a training project that I lead in my office.

  6. Comment by Arlene Baker posted on

    I attended the Academy in 2017. The experience was invaluable. I made some great friends, gained confidence and experience and it helped my greatly with the application process and in July I successfully gained promotion from AO to EO and I am really enjoying my new role.