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UCL Public Engagement Blog



The next STEP: my traineeship and beyond!

By Briony Fleming, on 18 November 2020

In this blog, Caroline Francis, Community Engagement and Public Art Associate in the UCL Engagement Team, shares some of her highlights of working at UCL during the STEP traineeship, and also what she’s looking forward to during the rest of her time at UCL.

Photograph of Caroline Francis

Photo of STEP trainee Caroline Francis. Photo by Eric Aydin-Barberini

Last Friday marked the end of my journey on the year-long Shared Training and Employment Programme. To mark the occasion, myself and other STEP trainees alongside our employers and the brilliant Create Jobs team gathered for an online celebration event on zoom. Whilst it was a shame we couldn’t be together in person, to share stories from the past year over a glass of bubbles, it was nevertheless an important moment for us all to be together in one space.

During the event we each got the chance to share our highlights from the past year. For Mohammed, it was setting up the online exhibition Make an Impression II whilst at UCL. For Yssis it was jet setting to Slovenia to shoot the latest Amazon Christmas advert with PrettyBird Studios. My biggest highlight from STEP has been my involvement in work that has a positive impact on communities in east London, especially those which are often marginalised in society.

During my first placement at Foundation for FutureLondon I got the chance to see how our funding was supporting local community initiatives. Enabling essential care and opportunities for communities in east London, such as the Gascoyne 2 Community Lunch which brings together local older residents to share a meal and providing an opportunity for meaningful social interaction. Then, in moving to UCL, I gained invaluable insight into the work of the Engagement Team, who support UCL staff and students to make the university and research more engaged, relevant and beneficial to external communities. This is work that I have been really proud to be a part of.

Photograph of the 2020 STEP cohort

Photograph of the 2020 STEP cohort. photograph by Eric-Aydin-Barberini

Thinking back on the past year, there have been a lot of highlights and things to feel grateful for. As part of STEP, I have been given opportunities in abundance. This included the chance to devise and deliver a creative project, tons of skills-development training, talks with industry specialists, mentoring support, 1×1 check-ins, and even group therapy sessions! It is this attention to support which makes STEP unique to other career development programmes of its kind.

The next chapter…

Last Friday would also have been my last day at UCL, but it isn’t good-bye from me yet! About a month ago, I received an offer from my line manager, Briony, to extend my contract until March 2021 which I gladly accepted. With STEP coming to an end at the same time as the furlough scheme was due to close, and with unemployment at an all-time high, the security of full-time employment for the coming months was a real life-line.

The extra time at the organisation will also give me the opportunity to work on the further development of projects I have been involved with so far. Here are a few of the things I’m looking forward to:

  • Ask the Expert – I have been working closely with Schools Engagement Manager, Emma Bryant, on a brand new project designed to help secondary school pupils in east London re-engage with education after 6 months of disrupted learning and find out more about subjects studied at university. I look forward to seeing the project go live and bringing together the brilliant minds at UCL to help solve the students weird and wonderful questions!
  • Trellis 3: I am really excited to begin working on the launch of Trellis 3 where I will be supporting the Community Engagement and Public Art team to reach out the next cohort of academics and artists. Having seen the Trellis 2 projects progress, and the partnerships flourishing, I’m looking forward to going back to the beginning of the project, albeit a different year, and getting involved in the match-making events – where all the magic begins!
Image of the Trellis Art programme logo

Trellis programme logo

  • Engage Conference: later this month, I will be attending some of the online events as part of the annual conference championing Public Engagement across global Higher Education institutions. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet and hear from others working across the sector, and attending some of the events on their programme like ‘Find your village: engaging with diverse communities’ by Tom Allport at the University of Bristol.

Visit the Create Jobs website to find out more about the programme and read their blog to hear more from the current cohort.

To find out more previous UCL trainee’s experiences of being on the programme read blogs from Mohammed and Edinam up on the Public Engagement Blog.

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