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Department of Home Affairs funds training scheme 10 June 2008

A DIVISION of Government has seized the initiative in terms of staff development in a bid to improve the career prospects of local personnel.

Two employees at the Isle of Man Probation Service are currently working towards gaining professional qualifications via the Open University. Dawn Cubbon and Tim Dunne are about to embark on their second year of a three-year course having both achieved high pass marks in their initial assignments. The scheme is being funded by the Department of Home Affairs and is proving instrumental in overcoming some of the training obstacles encountered in the past.

Chief Probation Officer David Sellick said:

‘Members of staff have previously been required to leave the Island to undergo the required training. This situation has been a real impediment to local people taking up employment with us as anybody seeking to work as a probation officer must be professionally qualified. However, thanks to the foresight of the Department of Home Affairs our two trainees have the opportunity to achieve their qualifications while making a valuable contribution to the Probation Service and gaining important on-the-job experience.’

Dawn and Tim are making good progress on the Open University course which involves regular assessments of their work in addition to observational and practical placements. This course work is geared towards final examinations which – if passed – will lead to a social work degree enabling them to practice as qualified probation officers.

Before the new training scheme was introduced the Probation Service experienced difficulties recruiting local staff and relied on attracting qualified officers from other jurisdictions, principally the UK. This led to operational challenges as personnel from outside the Island had to get to grips with differences in Manx law and working practices.

Retention of staff was also an issue as officers sometimes chose to return to their roots after varying periods of service in the Isle of Man. However, establishing a development path linked to an Open University course should pay dividends, according to Minister for Home Affairs Martyn Quayle MHK who said:

‘The new training scheme funded by the Department will open up future career prospects for a number of Manx people. The Island will benefit from having its own fully trained probation staff who have also undertaken some of the division’s day-to-day workload.’

It is hoped to use the position of Probation Service Officer (untrained probation officer) as a conduit for the recruitment of future trainees. Appointments could then be made on the understanding that successful candidates would receive the necessary training and an opportunity to gain a recognised qualification.

Views from the trainees

Tim Dunne said:

Tim Dunne Probation Service‘I started the social work degree programme in October 2007 having expressed an interest in training to qualify as a probation officer. I’m approaching the end of year one of the three-year course. I’m lucky enough to know several people who have undertaken the training so I was aware of what to expect in terms of workload. The courses I am doing at the moment consist of assignments, practice placements and exams. This course also requires me to attend monthly tutorials at Manchester University where we meet to discuss some of the key issues of social work. We have tutors for each part of the course and they have been really supportive and informative. They are available to contact by email or by phone pretty much at any time. My manager has also been really supportive and understands the amount of study involved, so I don’t feel too isolated. I’ve built up a really good support network with the other students on the course and made some good friends. It’s interesting to see how theory links to practice and although I won’t qualify for another two years - if all goes to plan - I feel as though the course so far has helped a great deal in the work I do for the Probation Service.’

Dawn Cubbon said:

Dawn Cubbon Probation Service‘The Isle of Man Probation Service offered me the opportunity of sponsorship to study for the social work degree via the Open University in October 2007, which I gratefully accepted. As a home owner with a mortgage I could never have taken three years off work to go to university and study, so this was a golden opportunity for me. I had already worked for the Probation Service for 11 years, but had nowhere to go in terms of career advancement without the professional qualifications. I was advised by other students taking the Open University course that you need to be organised - and I couldn’t agree more. You have to be strict with yourself, setting a target number of study hours and really try to stick to it. It is demanding, but with the support of family, fellow students, tutors, employers and the University itself you can exceed your expectations. It is like being on a rollercoaster – full of highs and lows. The highs really make it all worthwhile. My Probation Service managers have been very supportive. It is the first time the service has gone down the route of sponsoring in-house trainees and so it too is watching with interest. Hopefully in another two years I will become a fully qualified officer and will be able to pay back the Probation Service for its investment in me.’

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