Getting to know Community Transport: Helena’s Story

Helena Banner

I started work at the CTA in September 2014 through Charityworks, a professional development programme designed for graduates seeking a career in the non-profit sector. In 2014-15, Charityworks hired around 100 graduates and placed them in roles within a wide range of charities that had signed up to the scheme across England; we then spent a year in these organisations in a diverse set of roles, gaining experience in the sector and the world of work, attending a series of training sessions to learn more about the sector and carrying out our own independent research.

When I was initially offered a role at the CTA, I must admit that I had little to no knowledge or experience of community transport. However, once I had done my research and found out about the fantastic work community transport does across the country I became eager to start the role, and to work with and learn from such a wide set of member organisations. This – combined with the role’s focus on policy and communications, two areas of interest for me – made working at the CTA an exciting prospect.

The first few weeks at the CTA were certainly a learning curve for me. As well as being introduced to the UK non-profit world as a whole I was also familiarising myself with more community transport-specific situations and challenges. It took a while for me to get my head around D1 licencing issues, what the different permits do and how BSOG works but I tried to immerse myself and learn as much as I could first-hand from members themselves by visiting organisations. My involvement in the State of the Sector survey and report for England near the start of my placement really helped; analysing the data meant that I was exposed to really comprehensive information about lots of different organisations. It was also a really proud moment to see the published report with my name on it.

From a long list of projects and activities I’ve been involved in this year, there are some others that stand out for me. Helping plan, organise and run events such as the CTA England Policy Conference 2014 and the 2015 Roadshow has been really rewarding, as well as a great opportunity for me to meet people from all over the community transport sector. I also produced a CTA Consultancy research report on the subject of accessible transport for another national charity, which once published will be used as a key campaigning document. Managing and producing the CTA News Brief has also been an enjoyable part of my communications work, as well as coming up with recommendations for further development; if you’d like to sign up to receive our new look News Brief, click here. Most of all, however, I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had to visit member organisations for various research projects throughout the year, both for the CTA and Charityworks. Meeting the staff members and volunteers who carry out the work on the ground is an important reminder of who the CTA exists for.

A year’s experience is not much to get to know a sector as diverse as the voluntary sector. I’ve come into contact with a great many inspiring people and organisations but I am sure that I have only just scratched the surface. However, I have certainly seen enough to know that this is a sector with a huge amount to offer and one that I hope to stay involved with throughout my career.

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