Lara Lewis Started an Apprenticeship to Change Career as a Contact Officer With Devon and Cornwall Police

Lara’s new career as a Contact Officer means that she handles calls received by Devon and Cornwall Police from members of the public requiring assistance – “I really enjoy talking to callers and it is so rewarding when you speak to someone in real distress and you are able to get help to them”. Contact handlers working within the UK’s emergency services deal with requests received via a variety of different methods – from members of the public calling 999 or 111, through to online applications, text messages and social media. They work in high pressured situations whilst demonstrating excellent communication skills, listening skills and an aptitude for quick decision-making.

Before applying for her apprenticeship, Lara worked as a self-employed hypnotherapist and a supply teacher. She is one of the many people each year who are using an apprenticeship to change careers whilst earning as they learn. Although apprenticeships were more traditionally thought of as a learning route post-school or college, nowadays almost half of all apprentices join their programme aged 25 and over. The type of apprenticeship Lara is enrolled on typically lasts 12 months, and the starting pay during training begins at around £22,600 alongside a weekend working allowance of around £2,000 making this apprenticeship a very valid route for anyone wishing to change career whilst continuing to work at the same time.

Lara is enjoying her new role – “Devon and Cornwall Police are a superb organisation to work for. They are very supportive and keen to help their employees to progress and I work with a great team of people”. She values the chance to combine on-the-job and off-the-job training – “In my off-the-job training, I got to see how other parts of the organisation work, including going out with response units. I also spent time reading briefings and standard operating procedures for different types of incidents. Devon and Cornwall Police also provide lots of professional development on a variety of topics from things like unconscious bias through to the role of Neighbourhood Policing Teams – it’s all been really useful for my role”.

Emergency Call Handler Apprenticeships

The Call Handler Apprenticeship aims to make sure apprentices have the knowledge, skills and confidence to deal with calls about a wide variety of emergency situations. Callers may be distressed or panicked and call handlers must stay calm whilst determining the most appropriate response. Lara says, “The hardest part for me has been learning to be comfortable with not knowing so many things. The type of incidents that the police are faced with are incredibly diverse and so it can take years to get to grips with the bulk of it and even very experienced Contact Officers sometimes face scenarios that they have not previously encountered. However, this is also one of the aspects of the job that makes it so enjoyable and interesting, and I wouldn’t change it!”

Upon completion of the Call Handler Apprenticeship, apprentices go on to become fully-qualified Call Handlers earning between £24,000 to £28,000, excluding the £2,000 weekend allowance. The qualification can also often be a starting point into a career within other aspects of the emergency services. Lara says, “Devon and Cornwall Police have an incredible number of roles for Police Staff, and I’m interested in a number of them. Once I complete my apprenticeship, I’ll have the opportunity to do attachments and find out more but for now, I am very happy in my current role”.

Certificate in Emergency Call Handling

SFJ Awards offer a Level 3 Certificate in Emergency Call Handling

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Lara’s Advice for Prospective Apprentices

For those who wish to find out more or to apply for the Call Handling Apprenticeship, Lara says, “The job can be high pressured and you will have to deal with distressing and difficult calls, however, the support is always there and you have an opportunity to make a real difference – it can be a fantastic career surrounded by wonderful, like-minded people who wish to serve their communities and make life better for others”.

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