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Joseph Tilston is one of 58 Cheshire Constabulary Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship students studying with the Institute of Policing on the University’s Warrington Campus. Having started in the last academic term, he is already preparing to go out ‘on the beat’ for the first time this month.

Joseph explains what drew him towards the course. He said: “One of the main reasons was that I wanted to help. I knew that I was either interested in the emergency services or in the Civil Service – so public service, basically. If I can do my bit, and help, that’s all that matters. Also, having grown up in rural Cheshire, I saw evidence of the different levels of crime that ran through the county. I think the PCDA (Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship) is an excellent kickstart to an officer’s career. To be able to study for a degree in professional policing, whilst also putting that learning into practice out on the streets, is an exceptional opportunity.”

Joseph’s cohort has quickly adapted to a new way of learning, because of the pandemic. So far, they have been mainly learning ‘virtually’, as well as having some role-playing sessions at Police Headquarters in Winsford, when social distancing conditions allow. “In some ways though, this has prepared us,” said Joseph. “We are going to have to deal with COVID-19 as part of our job and our training, so training within these parameters should help us to better prepare for scenarios that we may be facing in this climate.”

Joseph added: “Although I didn’t know what to expect from the teaching, we have covered so much already. Things like disclosure, how you investigate a crime scene, arresting people – the role of a PC was so much more than I had expected.”

Geoff Elvey, Head of the Institute of Policing, said: “This is a very exciting time for policing.  It is with great pleasure that we have welcomed the second cohort of Cheshire Constabulary Police Constable Degree Apprentices to the University of Chester Warrington Campus, along with their lecturers who support the Institute of Policing teaching team in the delivery of the curriculum and assessment. The experience due to Covid 19 restrictions has been via a more blended approach, with much more emphasis on the use of technology using a virtual classroom, but we have still managed to conduct some limited face to face teaching and been able to immerse the students in some role play activity. The implementation of the College of Policing, Police Educational Qualifications Framework (PEQF) sees policing working with Higher Education Institutions, forging a partnership that sees police education taking a more academic focus. However, more importantly, it recognises the valuable contribution made by police officers and staff, for the complex roles they deliver in keeping communities safe and supporting those most vulnerable within our society, by providing them, quite rightly, with higher academic qualifications.”

Sergeant Eddy Waring who is the Cheshire Constabulary PCDA supervisor said: “Cheshire Constabulary is delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Chester to welcome our second intake of Police Constable Degree Apprenticeships. The Constabulary takes great pride in our new recruits and we care about the standard and quality of training they receive. This partnership approach ensures that both academically and practically our Police Constable Degree Apprentices are equipped to succeed as Police Constables and serve the community of Cheshire.”

Joseph being the 500th Degree Apprentice to join the University of Chester marks a real milestone for the institution, as Paul Grayson, Academic Lead for Apprenticeships, explains: “Our apprenticeship provision has grown from strength to strength. Since the inception of the Higher and Degree Apprenticeships in the UK, the University of Chester has been at the forefront of their development. In 2016, we launched one of the first Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) programmes in England, with 12 Chartered Manager Degree Apprentices on programme out of just 50 enrolments across England. These numbers have grown year on year, with our first cohort graduating this November.”

Paul added: “The CMDA was closely followed by the introduction of the hugely popular Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship (SLMDA) programme. And now, we also have Assistant Practitioner (Healthcare), Nursing Associate, Police Constable, Registered Nurse, Advanced Clinical Practitioner, Science Industries Process Plant Engineering and Social Worker Degree Apprenticeships. We pride ourselves on the delivery of all of these programmes, which are tailored to support the employers and contribute to the employers’ need for skill development. We will seek to build on our position as the provider of choice for our existing employer stakeholders.”

As of this month, Joseph and his cohort will go out on an allocated beat, initially they will have a tutor constable, who they will be shadowing and assisting, but once they have gained the required amount of experience, they then go out on independent patrol.

Joseph said: “I am hoping to have a very rewarding career within Policing, and I think I’ll be better prepared for that by going through this programme. The PCDA programme is incredibly challenging, but I believe it could be the future of operational and response officer training in years to come.”

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