My experience as Programme Leader on NCS The Challenge

Alistair Wilkinson

Programme Leader for NCS The Challenge, 2015 and 2016

How did you get your job?

Initially I completed an application form where I had to list all of my experiences of working with young people, both in a residential setting, and a community one too. I then attended a four-hour group assessment where I had to do a variety of role plays and energiser exercises, as well as a one to one interview to assess my capability for the position.

What’s a typical day like as a Programme Leader?

It’s really hard to say what a typical day is like to be honest, it all depends on so many factors. I suppose my main role is to ensure that logistically the programme runs smoothly, ensuring that the young people are learning and benefitting from it at all times. I need to ensure that it is challenging and that they are getting something out of it.

A big part of my role is to manage the staff on the programme, ensuring that they are fully supported and comfortable in delivering their role. The great thing about NCS is that a ‘day in the office’ could be could be caving in Wales, kayaking up north, working in an elderly care home doing drama, or delivering a community project in Kilburn.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Without a doubt it is seeing the young people develop throughout the process. People on day one who are shy and want to go home, end up making friends for life and coming into their own shell. It’s incredible to see the change that happens in such a short space of time.

What are the challenges?

The long hours are hard but the adrenaline kicks in and the staff pull together which makes it lots of fun

In what way is your degree relevant to working on NCS The Challenge?

My degree has taught me how to facilitate in a variety of different contexts, which is certainly relevant when I have to deliver activities with the entire wave (the group of 60 young people). It has helped me develop my own facilitating approach, which if I do say so myself, is quite effective on NCS.

How has your role as a Programme Leader developed and what are your career ambitions?

I adore working on NCS The Challenge and I can see myself continuing to do so for a long time. I originally did this programme in 2011 as a young person back in Manchester when I was 16. The value of the programme inspired me to take a place at college studying drama, which then led me to drama school and moving to London. I wanted to give back to The Challenge so I have worked on NCS in a variety of other roles – a Youth Trustee, Brand Ambassador, Community Facilitator, Drama Practitioner and a Senior Mentor. Each year I keep coming back for more and it is because of the fact that the programme does work, and in my opinion, a vital thing for 15 – 17 year olds to do to help them on their journey to becoming themselves.

How do I get into working as a Programme Leader?

Be inspiring.

Be brave.

Be yourself.


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