Speed dating“Speed dating?” I said, incredulously, when I first heard that this was part of the induction programme for graduate trainees and school leavers.

“I know the social side of the NAO is good, but…. really?”

I soon learned that there was nothing inappropriate going on in the staff restaurant. It was just a creative way of giving our new intake of trainees the chance to find out about various teams they are likely to come across at the NAO. Rather than organising yet more talks (sometimes that is the best way to give information after all!), someone had the idea of running it as a speed dating event – not that I have ever been to such a thing, but I’m told this is what they are like.

So what did this look like in practice? Each team had a representative at a different table, and the trainees, in groups of two or three, had ten minutes to find out everything they wanted to know about the team before moving on to the next. Among the teams represented were Professional Development, Facilities, IT, Knowledge and Communications, Staff Allocations, Finance, and the Trade Union.

The union recognised at the NAO is the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) which nationally represents around 270,000 public sector workers. Last year I was elected to the Executive Committee of our branch and that is how I came to be invited to this event.

This was an ideal opportunity for me to meet the new trainees face to face and answer their questions about the benefits of being a union member. They’d been primed with some basic questions to break the ice, but of course they had other questions of their own and these led to some interesting discussions.

After ten minutes the Human Resources team (who make sure the induction programme runs like clockwork every year) called “time” and the next group arrived at my table to start the process again.

It reminded me of my induction week, just two years ago, which brings it home to me just how much I have learned over those two years. I couldn’t have imagined then that I would be the one answering the questions, not just about the union, but about college, exams, audit visits, and all the other random topics we somehow managed to cover at my table.

The trainees complete their week-long induction programme today, and are off to college next week for their first taste of studying for the ACA. I wish them luck!

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