What is it like to be a Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) student with The Open University?
PC Osborne from North Yorkshire Police kindly agreed to be interviewed about her experience so far, having completed the first year of her PCDA.
Please can you tell us a little about yourself and what motivated you to want to enter policing?
“In 2016, I started at Hull University to complete a degree in Criminology with Psychology. It was during my first year at uni that my interest in policing started and I have family members who have also given their time to serve the public as police officers. Consequently, I decided to become a Special Constable with Humberside Police to see if the career route was suited to me. After one year as a Special Constable and loving every minute, I decided to apply for Humberside Police for the role of Police Constable.
My journey to becoming a police officer was not easy. I had my interview for Humberside Police on my 21st birthday and unfortunately was unsuccessful. I did not give up and I applied for North Yorkshire Police alongside my partner, but I failed for the second time. My partner passed the recruitment process and became a Police Constable, so we moved to North Yorkshire together. One month after he started police training, I was offered another interview with NYP and passed! With the right support and dedication, I got to where I wanted to be. I am 23 years old and it has now been one year and two months since I started my police training - I am loving every minute of it.”
Did you have any concerns about embarking on an academic course of study and if so, what were they?
“I had already completed a BA degree in Criminology with Psychology, which was very beneficial to me. Previous experience helped me to prepare for what was to come and understand what was expected from me, for example writing essays and time management. I was not too keen on the idea of starting another degree after only one year since completing the first one, but it will allow me to pursue my dream career. I know that studying a degree means a heavy academic workload and I was concerned how I would do this alongside my role as a Police Officer as they are both such big commitments. However, I soon learned how to balance my workload (OU and police work) and prioritise what was most important so that I met my deadlines.”
How have you found it balancing the academic demands/studying with the ‘on-the-job’ requirements and your personal life?
“Balancing the workload is a difficult task and sometimes my social life has to be put on the back burner. When there are OU topics to study, quizzes to pass, tutor marked assignments to complete and a full-time job as a police officer, it’s safe to say I have a busy schedule! I make time to see my friends and family over rest days, but they go by very quickly and I am soon back at work again! It is very full on, but it’s a good way to learn - being thrown in the deep end also encourages time management skills to develop. Investing in a diary is key to managing time by creating a ‘to do list’ and identifying tasks of the highest priority. Doing this prevents you from always thinking you have forgotten something, meaning you can focus on your personal life once rest days come round.”
What part of the PCDA have you enjoyed the most?
“My favourite part of the PCDA course so far is that it has enabled me to develop as an individual in many ways. Not only has it enabled me to broaden my academic knowledge, other skills have developed also. For example my communication skills have developed, which has allowed me to engage with the public and also make new friends. Prior to enrolling on the PCDA course, I lacked self-confidence, possibly as a result of failing two police interviews. The PCDA course and meeting a variety of new people has allowed me to develop my confidence and recognise my own strengths. Meeting my colleagues has been a highlight of the PCDA course, especially throughout training. I have made a fantastic group of friends; we have spent many hours laughing and joking and we still find the time to meet up and go out for a drink (or two)!”
What has been the biggest challenge to date for you?
“Apart from managing the workload, the biggest challenge for me so far has been separating work-life from home-life. Being a Police Officer is a very demanding job and I often find myself in high pressure situations. I have experienced an array of jobs, some which are rewarding and exciting and others which are stressful and traumatic. It is important to not let the high-pressure situations get to you – seek help from supervisors if work is bothering your home life. Learning to ‘switch off’ is the key to managing a happy work-life balance.”
What tip(s) would you give to new entry officers just staring out on their journey?
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions – even stupid ones.”
“Invest in a diary to help manage time – make a ‘to do list’, note outstanding actions and also OU work and deadlines.”
“Always have food with you on shift and eat at the nearest opportunity – ‘downtime’ is not guaranteed.”
“There is no such thing as a ‘quick job’ - don’t fall for it.”
“ALWAYS own up to your mistakes – no matter how big the cake fine may be.”
“It is okay to not be okay – help is always available.”
What’s been the best piece of advice that you’ve been given since entering policing?
“GET STUCK IN – it’s quite easy to shy away from things for fear of not knowing what to do or doing the wrong thing. You will never learn that way, push yourself and always work just outside of your comfort zone. You won’t mess things up, but it’s okay if you do – we learn by our mistakes! Remember, help and advice are only a radio communication away at the furthest point.”