Bridging the gap between coursework and reality – Tosin’s work experience blog

From 16 to 22 May it’s Learning at Work Week. In this guest blog, Tosin Akomolafe, placement student in the Council’s HR department, tells us about what she learnt during her placement here, part of her Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Bradford. Over to Tosin…

My name is Oluwatosin Akomolafe. I go by the short version of my name – Tosin. I am a Nigerian lady who enjoys photography, discussing politics, travelling and learning new things. I moved to England last year for my Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Bradford.

First day in Bradford and the UK September 2015
Tosin on her first day in Bradford, September 2015

I recently finished a placement at the Human Resources (HR) Department of the Bradford Council and here is a brief overview of my experience. This placement has afforded me opportunities to learn beyond the classroom and fulfil my desire for a practical experience in the public sector.

One of the reasons I chose the University of Bradford for my Master’s degree was the learning approach and opportunity for placement, which is rare for a one-year master’s degree in other universities. The module is called professional practice.

Since my first semester at the University, I had been looking forward to the professional practice or placement. On being accepted for placement at the HR department of Bradford Council, I became anxious because my mind was raising all sorts of reasons why it may not work out. However, on talking with Elaine Mallinson, an apprentice officer, my anxiety was reduced. She was so helpful. She told me about what they do in the department, different units and how my time would involve learning from different teams, shadowing and attending meetings.

My first day at work was spent attending a workshop on workforce development where the progress on workforce development programme was reviewed. This was really a baptism of fire because it seemed I was thrown into the deep end and there was quite a lot of stuff to learn at once: skills required for the future, the Council’s new Learning Management System (LMS), frontline management, the Future Leaders programme, etc.

For example, the use of the phrase ‘skills required for the future’ was confusing. I kept asking myself, whose future, which future? However, what I learnt at the workshop became a good foundation for future learning within the department.

Subsequently, I learnt about recruitment, redeployment and the use of competency framework and how they have evolved over the years. I was able to deepen my knowledge of the recruitment process when I witnessed interviews for Special Educational Needs (SEN) escort at the passenger transport service’s Shearbridge Depot office.

I also learnt about the use of the LMS and its possible relationship to talent management and performance management. Other key areas in HR I learnt about include management of benefits and reward, sickness and absences, discipline, training and information management.I also gained practical skills like negotiating and political awareness.

I really enjoyed the time in the HR department. I took the e-learning course on corporate induction and reviewed it. I liked e-learning as a medium of training and continuous professional development. Later, I took other e-learning courses on employability skills and dementia awareness.

I also enjoyed researching Bradnet (the Council’s intranet) and reading and learning about the Council. I requested to learn from other departments in the Council and I was happy to learn from the Policy, Programme and Change (PPC) department. I learnt about their engagement with the residents of the district and the Council staff; preparing plans, researching, business intelligence and performance management.

My experience in the HR department has enabled me to bridge gaps in knowledge between what is taught in class and the reality in the public sector. The placement has made me realise the realities of working in the public sector in an environment that is constantly evolving and that requires a good mixture of skills, innovation, compromise and adapting to the changing political landscape and environment.

A good example of the Council’s innovation and adapting to the changing environment is the ‘New Deal’ activity and how it has influenced everything carried out across the departments and the whole Council. Also, learning about HR-plus, the Council’s online help tool for managers, helped me understand outsourcing and some other new public management approaches taught in class.

Looking back on my time at the HR department, I believe it has been worthwhile. I have gained skills, ideas and practical ways of doing things which will be relevant to my future career plans. I definitely recommend and encourage placement, apprenticeship, traineeship and other forms of learning available from the Council because they offer a quick way to learn on the job and readily bridge the gap between the classroom and the experience required by employers.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my learning in the department, wish them success in navigating the complex environment and I look forward to reading how the ‘New Deal’ pans out in the future for the district!

Haworth 1940s weekend 2
Tosin at the Haworth 1940s weekend

To keep in touch with the Council’s workforce development and opportunities within the Council, follow our HR Director on Twitter: @sue_hrd

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