Newham cadets experience front line of public services in takeover day

PUBLISHED: 11:01 24 November 2016

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Allen Perez with police cadet Maira Ibrar and fire cadet Alfie Green. Picture: Ken Mears

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Allen Perez with police cadet Maira Ibrar and fire cadet Alfie Green. Picture: Ken Mears


In an increasingly competitive world of work, gaining a broad range of life skills and experience is more vital for young people than ever.

Fire cadet Alfie Green conducts the roll call at Stratford Fire Station. Picture: Ken MearsFire cadet Alfie Green conducts the roll call at Stratford Fire Station. Picture: Ken Mears

Becoming a cadet has long equipped youngsters with motivational goals but now recruits can gain invaluable work experience too.

Three young people from Newham have been learning about this first-hand through the Metropolitan Police Service’s Voice of Youth programme (VOY).

The month-long initiative offers 60 selected cadets the chance to shadow senior officers in the police and fire services.

It forms part of a national takeover challenge run by the Children’s Commissioner, in which children and young people take over adult roles. And 2016 marks the first year of the fire service’s involvement.

Police cadet Maira Ibrar learns about the call centre. Picture: Ken MearsPolice cadet Maira Ibrar learns about the call centre. Picture: Ken Mears

Sazeda Khalil, 15, from Forest Gate, Alfie Green, 15, from Canning Town and Maira Ibrar, 16, from Manor Park all participated in the takeover day last week.

The Recorder met Alfie and Maira at Stratford fire station just as they were about to start their day. Alfie said he had started as a sea cadet before becoming a fire cadet 15 months ago.

“I found out [about VOY] through a mate of mine,” the Langdon Park student said. “He explained to me what it was all about and I was intrigued.”

Alfie admitted to being nervous but also excited at the opportunity presented by the day as he hopes it will help him to realise his dream of being a firefighter one day.

Deputy Lieutenant for Newham John Barber and Sazeda Khalil. Picture: Ken MearsDeputy Lieutenant for Newham John Barber and Sazeda Khalil. Picture: Ken Mears

Plashet School student and volunteer police cadet Maira echoed Alfie’s sentiments, saying it was “important to be taken out of your comfort zone”.

“I am the only one here from my unit so I will learn how to be independent because I will see how to do things myself,” she said.

Overseeing the pair was Deputy Assistant Commander Allen Perez of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) who explained what exactly they would be getting up to.

“There is a clear strategy,” he said. “They will be able to consult on our London safety plan [currently in development] and they have questions which they will ask the crew.”

Aside from being able to attend a real fire, the cadets would be faithfully following a typical day of Mr Perez.

On the duty list was a guided step-by-step process of how to put out a simulated fire and giving a roll call of the firefighters, undertaken by Alfie as his first job of the day.

Mr Perez, who is responsible for overseeing operations and fire prevention strategies for 1,300 staff across north-east London, added it was “particularly nice” for the fire service to participate during its 150th anniversary.

Meanwhile, Sazeda spent her day with John Barber, Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, who acts as a conduit to the Royal Family.

She attended a charitable meeting of The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in the City to see how its donations were allocated.

“It is going to give us experiences,” Sazeda said of the takeover. “I did not even know about what was going on in my borough.”

Sazeda, who was named Newham’s Senior Cadet of the Year at the Jack Petchey Awards, hoped to learn how to be organised and “how to take responsibility” to help her fufil her dream of becoming a detective.

What advice did she have for would-be cadets? “I think others should give it a chance,” she said. “They will get to experience a world outside what they normally see.”

Newham Volunteer Police Cadets is one of London’s and the UK’s largest groups with 200 recruits.

VPCs learn skills to reduce their vulnerability to crime, participate in police training exercises and help at public events such as the Remembrance Sunday parade.

Even if cadets choose not to opt for a service career, the training is still useful for any future job.

“It’s a great foundation to be able to go forward,” Mr Barber said. “You learn how to conduct yourself, converse with ease, always look tidy – you see people blossom. I have seen cadets who five years ago who were afraid of their shadow and now they are leading others.”

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Chance to learn new skills in the air and on the water

Archery, camping, music and rifle shooting are among the activities open to young people when they sign up to the air cadets.

“A lot of cadets want to join because they want experiences but they realise they need to have evidence of it,” Flight Lieutenant Chris Booty explained.

The 31-year-old, who joined the air cadets when he was 13, leads 282 Squadron, at Vicarage Lane, East Ham.

There, cadets can study for a BTEC diploma in aviation studies (equal to two GCSEs) or public services and music (akin to four GCSEs) as well as gain Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

“We offer a lot more than we did,” Chris said, although air training, gliding, navigation and radio comms are still core parts.

“There is quite often the chance to fly before cadets can drive,” said Chris, adding that there are about 70 cadets aged between eight and 20 with the squadron.

Lieutenant Adam Mendrys, commanding officer for Newham Cornwell VC Sea Cadets, says training is at the heart of his unit.

“We try to accredit the normal qualifications that we use,” he said, citing sailing skills recognised by the Royal Yachting Association as one example.

“It is not just nautical stuff. We are just trying to give them a headstart,” he said of the 30 cadets and 10 junior cadets he oversees. We offer a massive range of training.”

Some skills have adapted along the way.

Communication information systems (CIS) training is now offered in place of morse.

The unit leader estimates that there are 1,500 courses open to sea cadets across the country.

“The reason people will join us is because they can pick something that they want to do,” Adam said.

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