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Our youngest hero – from apprenticeship to valued employee

Published on: 17 Aug 2020


Meet Ella Smith, Senior Corporate Business Assistant at Stafford Borough Council.

Our youngest WM Everyday Hero so far at just 22 – she started working at Stafford Borough Council a week before her 17th birthday so a relatively recent recruit to the sector and already a valued asset.  Her Chief Executive Tim Clegg says , “I think Ella is a remarkable young person”, another colleague Will says “I know of three other managers who would gladly steal Ella if her present boss could ever be persuaded to let her go.” Praise indeed, and there’s more to come for this young person who’s decided to make her career in local government.

When Ella was in her first year of sixth form doing A levels she asked to do her work experience in her local council – Stafford. She liked it, so much that she decided to apply for an apprenticeship there. Ella says, “I just thought there’s no harm in applying, then I was chosen to be interviewed – I couldn’t believe I actually got the job, I was so pleased! It really wasn’t a difficult decision to leave sixth form and start my first proper job, earning a wage and learning too. I’m still loving it.”

Since her apprenticeship Ella has been promoted three times

 Like many council apprenticeships Ella gained experience across the council including the contact centre, communications and policy and partnerships teams in those two years. She’s since been promoted three times and is now a senior corporate business assistant providing administrative support to colleagues on a diverse range of issues from safeguarding, antisocial behavior to commissioning and the corporate plan. She’s also organising events including ‘Stafford in the World’ – a fair for the voluntary and business sector each May – and the community awards in November. This year’s awards will be somewhat different – with a virtual model being developed by Ella.

Ella co-ordinated the shopping delivery services for the most vulnerable

When the pandemic hit Ella became the co-ordinator for the shopping delivery service for vulnerable residents. She worked out timings, the rota and logistics. Dr Tracy Redpath, Ella’s manager is full of praise,  “I am so very proud of the way Ella has managed and co-ordinated an operation that has ensured hundreds of vulnerable residents in our borough didn’t go without food as part of our Community Hub support scheme. It is only through Ella’s meticulous organisation skills, mature attitude and doggedness that the scheme has been so successful. And the initiative is now being continued through Central England Co-op’s normal operations!

This was a completely new scheme for the council to be involved in at a very challenging time for everyone – but through it all she kept such a level head, far beyond her years, in the face of some extremely chaotic days. A very worthy nomination as a public sector hero.”

Like most of the council Ella has been doing all this while working from home, indeed her team were one of the early adoptors of home working. Ella really wasn’t sure how she’d cope without her colleagues around but, like many, has found the technology to catch up with people online has worked far better than expected.

Ella has chosen local government as a career and has felt supported by the council

Ella is so positive about her choice of local government as a career that she would make a great ambassador for encouraging others to do likewise. She’s felt supported throughout her time with Stafford Borough Council and encouraged to take qualifications and given a day a week to dedicate to those – she’s done level 2 and 3 in business administration and event management and functional IT skills, much of this online. But the biggest bonus is feeling like she’s making a real difference to the community. As Ella says, “I feel I’m doing something worthwhile for my community, I get variety in what I do and I feel really appreciated too.”

In a sector that’s ageing in it’s workforce profile more young enthusiasts like Ella are needed. It’s not a surprise she’s asked to contribute new ideas to council wide groups, for example the internal communications group that ‘meets’ every two weeks and comes up with innovations to share information.

As to the future Ella hasn’t got a definite plan, “I just want to take on more responsibilities and try new areas of work,” says Ella. She continues, “I’ve been lucky during my time with Stafford to pass my driving test, to get engaged and buy a house with my fiancé. The council has been there for me throughout these important life stages.”

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