I was fortunate to have been given a work experience placement at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff, as part of Stonewall Cymru’s Work Placement Scheme. The scheme seeks to give young people the experience of working in LGBT friendly workplaces. The Assembly is a leading example, named in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index as the top Public Sector Employer for Wales.
On Monday morning, after a glimpse into ‘grown-up life’ (the ‘morning commute’ to Cardiff Bay!), I was given a warm welcome by Craig, my mentor for the week and Chair of OUT-NAW (the Assembly’s LGBT network), followed by a whistle-stop tour of the labyrinth that is Tŷ Hywel, the Senedd Building and the Pierhead building.
After catching my breath, I met the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, and sat in on some of her meetings and observed how her role contributes to the work of the Assembly. Earlier in the month, she presented a fantastic speech to the Stonewall Cymru Workplace Conference (where organisations share best practice of their equality work) and emphasised the importance of authenticity in the workplace, and how people work their best when they can be who they are: an ethos which the Assembly, under the Presiding Officer’s leadership, has fully embraced.
After lunch I met with Natalie Drury-Styles, head of the Private Office and LGBT Ally, and discussed the role of her team in supporting the vision of the Presiding Officer. I then attended and contributed to the meeting of the Private Office’s events team which was looking at the Presiding Officer’s ‘Women in Public Life’ Campaign (or #POWiPL, for all you tweeters!) which looks strategically at the important role social media now plays in public engagement.
The legal services team, headed by Elisabeth Jones, then gave me a simple overview of how legislation in Wales is made. Rather than repeat that, you can find more information of the process here: Legislation guidance (don’t worry, it’s really simple)! Of course, legislation can’t work in isolation, and requires education programmes and wider policy to support its implementation and impact, a point that Elisabeth and the team emphasised during my time at the Assembly.
As well as spending time with the Legal Services team, I also attended a second reading of the Higher Education (Wales) bill and also First Minister’s Questions. I left the Assembly with a clearer understanding of how legislation is made, how the Commission supports the Assembly in this, and how the public can get involved. For example, did you know a petition only requires ten signatures to be considered by a committee?
What the public don’t see is the amount of resource and effort that goes on behind the scenes. Assembly Members receive support from Members’ Business Support and the Professional Development Team. These teams provide training and support for AMs and their support staff to ensure that they have everything they need to undertake extremely demanding roles.
Equality and diversity, in its fullest sense, is a significant focal point for the Assembly. It is key to achieving the Assembly’s vision; and the Equalities Team work strategically to ensure departments are always thinking about these issues. Specifically, for LGBT colleagues, it was great to see the Assembly take so much pride in its positioning in the Stonewall Workplace Equality index; leading by example for the rest of the Welsh public sector.
My final highlight of the week was working with the Communications Team. In the morning I attended a symposium with Non Gwilym, Head of Communications and LGBT Ally, and heads of Communications departments from the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of Parliament. The symposium was to share good practice in communications in a collaborative and holistic way. My afternoon was spent discussing the usefulness and importance of social media with Julian Price, Social Media Manager, who outlined how social media had impacted the way in which the Assembly communicates with the public. I rounded off my week at the Assembly meeting Mari Gooberman, Education Manager, where we discussed some very exciting developments for young people that will all become clear in the next few weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!
If you can’t tell already, I had a fantastic week at the National Assembly. Every person I met, every conversation I had, every meeting and session I sat in on, was beneficial to me in some way, shape or form. The atmosphere and ethos of the institution is a credit to each member of staff, and at the end of the week I was saddened to have to hand in my key-card and leave Tŷ Hywel for the last time (a big thank you to the lovely security staff who greeted me with a smile every day, and wished me the best for the future as I left on Friday afternoon!). Stonewall Cymru chose the National Assembly to be a pilot for their Work Placement Scheme as they’re the top public sector employer for LGBT people in Wales, and I don’t think they could’ve found a better example of a workplace where people can be who they are, celebrate difference, and achieve brilliant results: the impression emanates from the moment you walk into Tŷ Hywel, where you see the Stonewall Cymru Diversity Champions certificate proudly hung on the wall.
This short blog will never be long enough for me to fully elaborate on the brilliant time I had at the National Assembly for Wales, but I hope I’ve given it my best shot and that you can see what an excellent time I had. I can’t thank all members of staff enough for being so welcoming, encouraging, informative and inspiring – this experience really will be formative in my career, and personal development: diolch yn fawr iawn, mi welai chi gyd yn y dyfodol.
Find out more about the National Assembly for Wales
Interested in Work Experience with one of Stonewall Cymru’s Diversity Champions? Email Stonewall Cymru’s workplace team.
Christian tweets at @MrChristianWebb. He is a social action ambassador for Step Up to Serve, a volunteer for Stonewall Cymru, and is a participation champion for Brook, the young people’s sexual health charity.