A group of south London teenagers have come together with police officers and staff from the Met to take part in an innovative new internship-style programme that aims to encourage young people from under-represented communities to consider a career in policing.

The ‘Elevated Aspirations’ programme involves 13 weeks of special mentoring from top black professionals in the criminal justice field, two weeks of work experience across a wide range of different Met units, and regular personal development coaching from professionals from that sector.

The cohort of 18 male and female teenagers, who are all aged 17 and in their first year in the sixth form at St Thomas the Apostle School and Sixth Form College in Nunhead, have just completed the work placements at the Met that enabled them to gain a valuable insight into the varied experiences of different Met officers and staff.

The whistle-stop tour of the organisation included sessions with firearms, forensics, the marine unit, the Territorial Support Group, Taskforce, custody and the 999 calls control centre. They also got the chance to handle specialist equipment, try on kit, take part in role-plays on stop and search, shadow detectives on an investigation, and visit the courts at Inner London Crown Court.

The programme is a joint initiative from the long-serving Met schools officer PC Nsikan Etuk, educational consultant Doreen Sinclair-McCollins and ex-Met borough commander Victor Olisa.

It aims to contribute to enhanced public service, trust and confidence through generating legitimacy for the Met and finding new ways for it to engage with minority communities.

The young participants all expressed an interest in the idea of community and policing at the outset and then took part in two initial assessment days. From May they started receiving the first of a series of 13 inputs from leading black industry professionals on themes such as ‘using my voice’ and ‘barriers to progression’.

They have just finished gaining first-hand knowledge of the realities of policing through the two weeks of Met placements and are marking the occasion with a ‘graduation’ ceremony for parents and supporters at an event in Kennington on Friday 22 July.

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, was one of the speakers at the graduation event and said:

“The Elevated Aspirations programme is a fantastic initiative that supports young people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds to build a better future for themselves and their local communities.

“Through expert mentoring and work placements, this programme gives young Londoners first-hand experience of the unique challenges that comes with working in the police and provides career opportunities in the Met Police and beyond.

“It also helps build trust and confidence in the Met Police, which is crucial in ensuring all Londoners feel protected and served. It has never been more important for young people to be engaged with policing and programmes like this will help to make sure the Met truly reflects and represents the experiences and needs of all Londoners.”

Two of the students taking part in the programme said they felt the time spent within the Met had enhanced their understanding of the force.

Brissi Bidi, 17, said: “I decided to join the programme for a few reasons, I had spare time but also I was interested in the manner that the police operate. I have found it enjoyable, eventful and inspiring and it’s changed my views on how it is to work in the police force, even making me seriously consider a role working in the firearms section in future.”

Esme Gustave, 17, added: “I wanted to join because I believe it’s important to bridge the gap between the Met and the ethnic minority groups in society. It’s given us the chance to gain an understanding of the Met and its sections and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, including meeting different people and establishing connections to regain that trust in the police.”

The group will continue to receive individual professional coaching until April 2023, and the course leaders hope to offer the same opportunity to a new group from a different school in Southwark later in the year if funding can be secured.

The content of the qualification obtained by students who successfully complete the full programme is based on Ofqual’s Level 3, which is equivalent to A-level.

It could act as a precursor for those who want to apply for the apprenticeship route to becoming a Met officer, but is equally worthwhile for those who choose to pursue other careers as it allows them to gain crucial skills helping them to be more ‘work-ready’.

PC Etuk, who has worked as a Met schools officer for 18 years and is based in Southwark, explained:

“I wanted the youngsters to obtain a richer insight into the roles of the police through doing the programme, as well as to break down barriers and create more positive connections between officers and young people. At the start a small percentage of the group of 18 wanted to join but now over 90% expressed an interest in a future career with the Met, which is really encouraging.”

Doreen Sinclair-McCollins, chief executive of Elevated Aspirations, said:

“Elevated Aspirations aims to contribute to a culture change within the Met Police, build bridges and strengthen relationships between police and the young, under-represented community members taking part. We also hope it will be a step toward helping the Met meeting its recruitment aspirations to increase the percentage of BAME new recruits and to change ‘generations of history’ between police and black communities.”