Helping to keep communities safe and prevent crime is all in a day’s work for University of Gloucestershire graduate Joanna Szymanska.
Joanna, who has a Master’s degree in criminology, loves her placement working with Police Commissioner Martin Surl, supporting him and his team in delivering the county’s police and crime plan.
“When I started my degree I was mostly interested in forensics. It was exciting doing mock crime scene investigations. A murder would be staged, we would collect evidence and write comprehensive reports, it was a fascinating experience.
“However, I quickly realised that criminology is about so much more than that. We had plenty of guest lecturers including retired-chief constables, police officers and staff.
“They came to talk about their work and showed us what career options were available.
“I became interested in community engagement.
“I decided to pursue a career in community development as I believe that a sense of belonging not only increases meaningfulness of life, but also improves life’s quality and brings happiness. I really enjoy seeing the positive difference of engaging with people.
“For two years I volunteered with Cheltenham West End Partnership and helped to deliver some of their projects aimed at improving the lives of people living in Cheltenham.
“Through the partnership I liaised with local residents, student interns, volunteers and partner agencies including the police, Cheltenham Borough Council and health and probation services.”
Joanna has been working in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) since October 2014, and enjoys engaging with local community groups, local organisations and partner agencies. She is now working closely with the University of Gloucestershire to recruit interns and placements who will be working on projects within the Police and Crime Plan including Safe and Social Driving, Safer Cyber, Young People Becoming Adults and Safer Days and Nights.
The project officer, who was based at the University’s Francis Close Hall during her studies, believes that undertaking work experience and volunteering is a crucial ingredient for today’s students if they want to stand out from the crowd.
“Work experience gives students the opportunity to utilise the skills gained during their studies and learn from the knowledge and experience of their new work colleagues.
“It also gives them a chance to work in a real working environment and acquire important connections that in future may help them to progress into their chosen career.
“For me, university was wonderful time of my life. Everybody was so supportive, passionate and helped us to explore subjects we were interested in.
“I have also gained experience in data collection, entry and analysis. These skills are much appreciated in my job now.”
The project officer post will shortly be taken up by another placement student while Joanna has been successful in securing a maternity cover contract in the OPCC as Commissioning Officer.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl said:
“Joanna is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and conscientious and a shining example of how the university’s placement system can benefit both the student and the employer.
“Joanna’s placement enhances our close relationship with the University of Gloucestershire and enables her to share her skills, learning and enthusiasm with my busy team.
“It is interesting that her experience with us has led to her changing her mind about what she wants to do with her future career.
“We are very proud to have Joanna as a member of the OPCC team and I am delighted she will be staying with us for longer.”
Cheltenham projects to receive funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Fund include Cheltenham Together, Keep Safe, Cheltenham Street Pastors and installing body-worn CCTV for Taxi Marshalls.
Nearly 150 projects have been funded across the county since the introduction of the Fund in December 2012.
This report appeared in the Gloucestershire Echo 13 May 2015
Since the report appeared in the Echo the number of the PCC funded projects has increased to 227. The Project’s Officer role has been taken up by another placement student, while Joanna works as the Commissioning Officer coordinating the processes associated with commissioning and the Commissioner’s Fund.