Meet our national management trainees
Meet our National Management Trainees
Birmingham City Council have been fortunate to have had some exceptional trainees join us through the scheme. Throughout years, many have successfully secured senior management positions within the organisation. Below, you can familiarise yourself with case studies from some of our current and previous National Management Trainees:
Sophie Cordery, Cohort 23
I did my MA Hons in Languages and then completed my MSc in International Development a few years later.
Motivations for applying:
During my MSc, I got to study topics like inequality and entrenched poverty. Local government is fascinating because you deal with these issues on the frontline, and you really see the impact your work can have on local communities. Being part of the NGDP at Birmingham also gives you access to tailored support including a comprehensive induction to the council, a senior mentor, a buddy, and the rest of the graduates in your cohort which will be one of the largest.
How have you changed?
I have been able to get involved in projects unique to local government and Birmingham City Council which have pushed me to develop my skills rapidly. I can think of no other scheme that would have offered me the breadth that the NGDP at Birmingham has; it has been a fantastic start to my career. When I think back to when I first started, I can see how much I’ve grown in confidence since then and I have a real sense of pride when I think about what I’ve accomplished in just one year.
I’ve had three fantastic placements so far! The Delivery Unit was brilliant exposure to how the council operates, the Commonwealth Games was a one-in-a-lifetime chance to work on a major sporting event in Birmingham, and the Children’s Trust has given me eye-opening frontline experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.
My advice for applying for the NGDP scheme would be to try and understand what Councils do and have a strong motivation for why you'd like to work in one. Really consider what motivates you and why you’d be a good fit for local government specifically, rather than just the public sector in general. The NGDP networks tend to offer drop-in sessions where you can hear from a range of speakers and we run Birmingham-specific sessions too.
Gursharan Jheeta (Sammy), Cohort 24
BSc International Business and Economics and MA International Relations and Global Governance, Aston University.
Motivations for applying
- To have the opportunity to improve the living conditions and prospects of citizens living in Birmingham, as well as future generations.
- To apply aspects of both my undergrad and master’s degrees to the world of Local Government.
- To further develop my skills and education career through studying the ILM Leadership and Management (Level 7) qualification.
My first placement is in the Chief Executive’s office and external affairs. Being part of this placement means I am able to get an overview of the council, its directorates and the extensive work it does. Having the perspective of the chief executive means I am able to understand how all activity within the council is contributing to the overall council plan. I have been able to shadow meetings with Deborah Cadman (Chief Exec, BCC) and witness first-hand her strong leadership stance and how she navigates the challenges of being the Chief Executive of one of the largest local councils. Since starting my role, I have been able to attend several events, including the Birmingham Economic Review and CCIN Conference in Telford. This opportunity has improved my confidence and networking ability. The external affairs division is newly established, thus far I have been working on improving the strategic partnership between BCC and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
As I have lived and studied in Birmingham all my life, I have been able to witness first-hand what potential it has. However, I have also seen the challenges it has and have always been passionate about doing my part to improve the lives of those living in Birmingham. Now more than ever, people from all socio-economic backgrounds need support to overcome the economic challenges we are facing, including the recovery following the Covid-10 pandemic, the outrageous Russia-Ukraine war and the imminent cost of living crisis. Knowing that I am contributing to supporting society during the most challenging of times is both professionally and personally rewarding.
Something that surprised me is how much the council do – including owning two farms and beekeeping! When I think about how I have changed, I think my mindset in terms of decision making has improved. When working in local government with the challenge of restrictive budgets, it is important to consider all perspectives during negotiations when investing capital, as well as balancing imminent crisis facing society and the important of long-term legacy and improvement of council.
Having a good understanding of local councils and what they do is important (they definitely do more than you might think!). Consider why you want to work for a local council, what empowers and motivates you and most importantly, what difference you can make to the lives of people in Birmingham.
Abigail Spicer, Cohort 24
BSc Geography at the University of Birmingham
Motivations for applying
Motivations behind work is really important to me, so working in local government, where the end goal of any work is to improve the lives of citizens in the local area stood out to me. The NGDP appealed to me in particular as a good first step into local government because it enables you to undertake placements across different departments, giving a much greater overview of how local government actually works than solely working in one department.
I’m currently working in the Customer Services department on a project looking at ways to streamline the call handling process. Operating a contact centre providing a wide range of services from housing to waste to over 1.4 million citizens is no easy feat and it has been fascinating learning the logistics behind it all.
Birmingham as a city has and is experiencing some great changes and opportunities, such as the 2022 Commonwealth games and regeneration of Perry Barr, and so working for Birmingham City Council, with strong involvement in big scale projects like these, appealed to me. Furthermore, being the largest local authority in the UK I knew that Birmingham City Council would also face challenges on a scale greater than other councils, which would bring unique and interesting challenges to everyday work.
During the first couple of weeks on at Birmingham City Council our cohort of grads were fortunate to have an in-depth induction into the council. This involved meetings with many different council directors, which enabled me to build up a picture of the vast range of services provided and transformative programmes going on across the council. On a personal note, whilst only a month into my first placement, I already feel that I have gained confidence in navigating new situations.
Veena Mistry, Cohort 24
Background and Motivations
Hi, I’m Veena and I have recently joined Birmingham City Council through the NGDP scheme. 3 years prior to joining, I completed my BSc in Environmental Science at University of Leeds and in between I worked as a manager in hospitality. I have a strong passion for leading others in protecting the environment and thus vulnerable people. This led me to decide to apply for the NGDP scheme as I felt like this was the best first step in helping vulnerable people and further developing my leadership skills, so I can continue to do so in the future.
Birmingham was a no brainer for top choice. I was intrigued by all the opportunities that are here, as Birmingham is the largest local authority in the UK. I was also adamant on working for a council that has supported me, so that I could also give back to the community.
I am currently in the Digital City Innovation Team, working on digital projects that will help to improve the council services and encourage digital innovation between city institutions, businesses, and communities. I have already started to develop my project management and stakeholder engagement skills because I have taken every opportunity my placement manager has offered to me.
My advice to those applying for the NGDP scheme is ensure you are ready to push yourself into situations that will be beneficial for your development early on. Get stuck in! The NGDP is an incredible opportunity and the best time to have a go at things and learn from all situations, whether they’re good or bad, before you do choose on a permanent role.
Eloise Lunn, Cohort 24
BA History at Royal Holloway University of London and MA Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Nottingham.
Motivations for applying
I applied to the NGDP scheme because I knew that I wanted to work in an environment where the work I do can have a positive impact on people and communities at a local level. By working for a local council, I knew that the work I could be doing on the NGDP scheme would allow me to experience working in a range of internal and frontline services where I could directly see the impact that councils can have on people’s lives. The NGDP scheme really appealed to me for the opportunity to rotate across different placements within the two-year scheme, as although I know that I want to pursue a career in Local Government, I don’t know exactly which area I want to specialise in – which is something that the NGDP really allows you the time and support to explore.
I’m currently on my first placement in the Corporate Programmes Management Office (CPMO), where the CPMO oversees the governance, reporting, escalation, and project management necessary for BCC to have confidence that major change programmes are being delivered as intended, on time and to budget. It’s an exciting placement which is providing me great scope across the council’s different lines of work, exposing me to vast projects and teams that are all trying to improve different areas of the council and local community. I’ve also been involved in work to reduce the council’s budget deficit, where I’ve spent time working with external consultants and the council to find key data and people to support this work. This has given me wide exposure to different staff and services at the council – from Senior Management, Service Managers, Personal Assistants and Third-Party organisations. This fast-paced, dynamic, and exciting opportunity has really given me the chance to learn new skills that have stretched my confidence and abilities immensely in such a short time.
Birmingham is such an exciting and diverse city with an immensely rich history, culture and community, and there are so many opportunities for graduates here to experience this! Being local to Birmingham, I knew that I wanted to play a part in working at the council to help contribute to making positive changes to people’s lives across the city and broader West Midlands. It’s a really exciting time for the city at the moment – having just had the Commonwealth Games put the city on the map globally, it’s been great to see the community come together to share and celebrate everything that Birmingham has to offer.
What have you learned so far during your time at BCC?
There is such a great support network at BCC – as the biggest Cohort on the NGDP Scheme, graduates here are really supported to explore their interests and get to know vast amounts of teams and services. I’ve also learned that one of the best things to do is take risks and get outside of your comfort zone – that way you can learn new skills and adapt to situations that you may not get to experience otherwise!
One thing that has surprised me was how quickly I have been able to gain exposure to and experience some really exciting, fast-paced and high-level opportunities within two months of starting at Birmingham City Council. Being able to support on fast-paced and demanding tasks so early on has really challenged me to learn and build my confidence in such a short time.
Be yourself and let your passions and interests shine throughout the application process. I would suggest taking some time to explore the work that different councils are doing to best understand why a career in Local Government is something that appeals to you and be clear in articulating this and the ways that you’d like to be involved throughout the application process. Everyone is different and has their own strengths, lived experiences, interests and passions – use yours to your advantage!
Maria Stankiewicz, Cohort 24
I studied BA Arabic and International Development at the University of Leeds and MA Advanced Migration Studies at the University of Copenhagen. I am also a trained ESOL teacher.
Motivations for applying
I chose to work in Local Government because it maintains the close connection to the community, while having the power to set agendas and implement policies. I chose the NGDP for its learning and development components and I’ve enjoyed having structured sessions on how public sector works as well as training in both theory and practice of project and people management.
My first placement is with the Special Projects, Improvement, and Delivery Unit where I focus on improving Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic representation within the workforce, especially at a senior leadership level to ensure that the council is representative of the population we serve. I also support planning, development, and recruitment of future NGDP cohort at BCC, so you’re likely to hear from me if you contact as at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our info sessions!
Birmingham was my first choice since the very first stage of the application process and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Working for one of the largest councils in Europe means that I develop my managerial skills in a corporate environment governed by mechanisms fit for a large organisation and that there’s always a chance to connect with and shadow experts working on issues close to my heart. Over the last months I have fallen in love with the Brummie balti and strolling by the canal – Birmingham is truly an easy city to feel at home in.
When it comes to local government one size does not fit all. Depending on a type of the authority two councils may have very different responsibilities. Do your research before applying, think about your interests and priorities, and be true to yourself.
Riju Shah, Cohort 24
“Birmingham is young, diverse and needs new ideas and fresh perspectives. If you are interested in working on matters that influence and drive positive change this programme is for you!”
BA Politics and Economics at Aston University
Motivations for applying
- To help shape lives and create a meaningful impact at local level.
- Develop leadership and management skills with the ILM qualification.
- To gain skills and experience to launch a career in public services.
I am currently working in the Programmes, Performance, and Improvement division of the council. This division is within the Council Management Directorate and plays an important role in providing key services to support the delivery of council management priorities. My current work involves working on projects which aim to deliver positive outcomes for the city that align with our corporate plan and best in class strategy. Working in a central function has so far given me a broad understanding of how the council works. I get to work with different business areas across the council and gain valuable exposure through the work I do. I look forward to the rest of my placement to see what more I can gain for my development as well as the future placements to come!
I was born and raised in Birmingham and studied at local university. Growing up I witnessed the inequalities in the city and different issues that needed addressing. I applied to the scheme with hope to use my determination to address these issues and make Birmingham a better place to live in. As a member of minority group, I also admired the way Birmingham City Council promoted an inclusive and diverse environment. I applied with great interest as I wanted to use my background to foster new ideas and contribute great ideas to my community.
Now, having started the scheme I would say I have more knowledge about local government and the role it plays to the community. I have also started to see a change in my confidence, management and leadership style and look forward to seeing it further develop during the study of the ILM qualification.
Figure out what working in local government is/means to you, how you fit in and what you can contribute. Once this is clear you will be able to do well during the application process and everything that comes after. Don’t also be afraid to make the most out of your experience whether that’s getting out of your comfort zone to network, make friends or even seek opportunities.
Alexandra Mckenzie-Sanchez, Cohort 24
Sociology and Politics MA at the University of Edinburgh. I was also Secretary of Sexpression Edinburgh, a near-peer independent charity that promotes and delivers informal and comprehensive RSHE in schools.
I am working in the Insight, Policy and Strategy team, which is a new team that works with data and produces insight. I have been predominantly working on providing research and analysis around the redevelopment of a local community café in a women’s centre in east Birmingham.
It’s a very exciting and youthful city, with a lot of potential and opportunity, as well as lots of challenges. The council has such a big part to play alongside citizens in unleashing that potential. Also, the size of both Birmingham and the council was a big part of the reason I chose Birmingham City Council.
I’ve learned a lot of skills in my short time here so far, and still have a lot to learn. I have realised how directly our work can improve the lives of the citizens we serve, which is so important. In terms of more personal learning, I am starting to realise that I can rise to challenges and don’t always need to feel imposter syndrome! The fact that I have been made to feel so valued at BCC was a pleasant surprise. People do care about what you think and want to hear your input – even so early on in your career. It has made settling in at work so much easier.
Ajmere Sidhu, Cohort 24
“The array of opportunities and potential for personal development available through the NGDP scheme at Birmingham City Council is truly remarkable, supporting myself and my career in the way that I want it to.”
I completed my undergraduate degree in Accounting for Management and my postgraduate degree in International Accounting and Finance at Aston University, Birmingham.
Motivations for applying
I applied to the NGDP because I wanted to be able to have the opportunity through my work to make a difference to people’s everyday lives. Working in local government helps me to achieve that and involves me within all the work that council’s do, allowing me to contribute effectively. The exposure you get through this scheme is great and the networking available is astounding. The clear path of progression within the NGDP provides you with the relevant experiences you need as you fast-track yourself into management. Plus, it’s such a widely accredited graduate scheme to be a part of!
My current placement is within the Special Projects, Improvement, and Delivery Unit. The delivery unit sits under the Performance, Programmes, and Improvement Division with a predominant focus on providing support, guidance, and producing detailed recommendations addressing critical business issues for service improvement across the council. I’ve really enjoyed my placement so far as it has provided me with countless opportunities in undertaking different types of project work which primarily involve deep dives into directorates to improvement performance. The amount of exposure with internal stakeholders has strengthened my understanding of the way the council operates, and this is a placement where new things are learnt every day!
Having been born and bred in Birmingham, the city has always had a soft spot in my heart. It’s a massively diverse city, with huge potential for change. Look no further than the success of the 2022 Commonwealth Games which put Birmingham on the map! The transformation of the UK’s second largest city has been incredible and there’s exciting things ahead. Which brings me to the next part. Why Birmingham City Council? To be able to make strong contributions, be involved in future projects, see those differences happen real-time and be a strong advocate for change within the council was one of many reasons for wanting to work here.
The array of opportunities and potential for personal development available through the NGDP scheme at Birmingham City Council is truly remarkable, supporting myself and my career in the way that I want it to. Throughout my time at the council, I’ve always been encouraged to speak, put my ideas forward, think creatively and make a difference. As an NMT, being able to ask for work that is tailored to my personal development is a great advantage and the support and advice on hand is very, very valuable.
Don’t think too much and just apply! You’ll never know the great things you could achieve in local government if you don’t try.
Fahima Mohamed, Cohort 24
Background and Motivation
I completed my BA in Geography at the University of Leicester before joining the NGDP scheme. Prior to that, I had completed a gap year working in a secondary school as a mentor, offering students’ academic and pastoral support. I was motivated to apply to the NGDP scheme because it gave me the opportunity to combine my academic experience with the experience I gained on my gap year. For example, I could combine the research skills I developed in university with the leadership skills I utilised in my role as a mentor to produce a level of work that directly impacts local communities.
I am currently on a 6-month placement in the Public Health Team. I am working on the Birmingham and Lewisham African and Caribbean Health Inequalities Review (BLACHIR) which published a report in June 2022. The report identified 39 opportunities for action that need to be implemented across services and I have been given the task of ensuring that these opportunities for action are delivered across the council.
I chose Birmingham City Council because I have lived in Birmingham for most of my life. I wanted an insight into how local government works in a city as big and as vibrant as Birmingham. There has also been a lot of change in Birmingham over the years, and so I knew there would be interesting projects for National Management Trainees to get involved with over the 2 years.
It’s important to understand how local government works and the challenges local councils are facing by keeping up to date with local and national politics. However, it’s also important to reflect on your own strengths and what you can bring to local government. Be confident throughout the process and make sure you emphasise your reasons for wanting a space on the NGDP!
Page updated 01 December 2022