Dr John Wheeler and Sarah Page, School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, Staffordshire University
The Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) was launched in 2019 as part of the College of Policing’s ‘professionalisation of policing’ initiative. Probationary officers (apprentices) undertake the BSc (Hons) Professional Policing Practice over three years whilst in full-time employment and alongside completing a portfolio of operational competencies. This was a step change, from training provided internally by each police force to the requirement for probationary officers to engage in higher education, and required a changed approach in how they are supported in the workplace.
To support their initial learning and development, each apprentice is assigned a ‘tutor’ who is an experienced, serving police constable. Traditionally, each recruit has shadowed their police tutor who has acted as a role model, providing on-the-job training and advice. However, following rollout of the PCDA, the police tutor role has become one of supporting the educational journey, providing opportunities for experience and reflection, and generally mentoring the apprentice.
Having previously received little professional development in the expectations of being a tutor, we designed a course to aid development of their mentoring skills so that they are better equipped to support their tutees. The course, which aligns with the European Coaching and Mentoring Council competency framework, comprises of 4 online sessions that cover the theory of mentoring, followed by a period of practical skill development with the apprentice whilst on deployment. The assessment necessitates reflection on the application of taught content in practice with the apprentice assigned to them. The course also gives the tutors exposure to higher education learning platforms, delivery, and resources.
Our ongoing evaluation has identified positive outcomes for both mentors and mentees. Prior to undertaking the course mentors rated themselves 4/10 in terms of their capability and confidence in mentoring, which rose to 8/10 on completion. Mentors report learning skills and techniques that support apprentices, as well as increased confidence in their own ability to study. One mentor stated “it’s better if you reflect, then you can explain that to the other learners you’ve got. It helps you tutor… One thing I did take away from it was awkward conversations you have to have… It’s helped with having those sit-down conversations with them and evidencing everything”.
For mentees, we identified improvements in confidence, knowledge, and abilities to reflect on practice and apply feedback. A mentee stated “it’s helped provide structure behind the practical side of learning – being able to take a step back from an incident and analyse what went well, how I felt and how I can improve has really benefited my learning in the early days of my career.”
Our findings advocate that those supporting apprenticeship students need adequate training to do so, including exposure to HE learning.
The developments discussed here are a component of a larger project that sets out to establish a Framework for Supporting Apprentices in the Workplace through Stakeholder Awareness, Engagement and Upskilling. The authors are very much interested in discussing opportunities to investigate and evaluate practices for supporting work-based and workplace learning with others.
Twitter: Follow @jwwheeler_dr and @StaffsUniJSS for more information from John and the team in the School of Justice, Security and Sustainability at Staffordshire University