A semi-pro rugby player, a restaurant manager and a blind fitter are among more than a thousand people who have switched to a new career as a police officer since the Met announced its apprenticeship programme a year ago.
Courtney Thompson, a former restaurant manager who is now helping to keep Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow safe.
Courtesy Metropolitan Police
Since January 2021, a total of 1,095 people have started a new vocation, earning upwards of £30,000 while making a real difference to the safety of London’s communities and working towards a degree fully funded by the Met.
PC George Zealey, 23, was among the first to start the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) programme.
The then-blind fitter aspired to do something more impactful and is now fighting crime in Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow.
Recalling the moment he realised policing was the job for him, PC Zealey said: “I arrived at a house to do a measure up for blinds and heard shouts for help. The elderly gentleman inside, who was in a motorised wheelchair, had got himself stuck and could not move. I phoned 999, an ambulance was despatched, and when they arrived I climbed in through a dog flap in the door and let them in. I began thinking about working in emergency services, because I felt so alive dealing with that.”
The Met is encouraging more people to follow in PC Zealey’s footsteps by applying to be a Met police apprentice this National Apprenticeship Week (Monday 7th February to Sunday 13th February).
Ranging from ages 18 to 55, the Met’s first apprentices are bringing a wide range of life experience, community knowledge and skills to the role, and already making a difference in London.
Since becoming an apprentice, PC Zealey has been involved in lots of hands-on and rewarding work, from searching for a suspect in a stabbing investigation to putting together court case files - all with guidance and support from experienced Met tutors.
He said: “I helped take a statement off somebody who had been suffering from domestic violence. You saw the absolute stress of what they were going through, and then you’re thinking, ‘Right, this is the first step in actually getting this sorted.’ To hear later on that the perpetrator had been arrested, and it was being dealt with, was pretty rewarding. It makes it really real, that you're dealing with people's lives.”
The diversity of the apprentices is helping ensure the Met is better representative – and therefore even better placed to help – London’s communities. It is the Commissioner Cressida Dick’s aspiration that by April this year, 40 per cent of all new recruits will be women and 30 per cent will be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – a target the Met is already close to achieving, in part due to more than 30 per cent of its apprentices being women and more than a quarter being Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.
Former restaurant manager PC Courtney Thompson, 24 – who is both British and Jamaican – is now helping to keep Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow safe. She said: “I wanted to do a job that was meaningful and that required passion and drive. I instantly fell in love with policing. I think it’s really important for London to have a police force that’s reflective of the communities it serves.”
Former semi-pro rugby player-turned-police apprentice PC Victory Anyaoha, 24, is eight months into his course and policing in Sutton. He said: “I wanted to do this to change how people see officers who are Black African. I wanted to change the narrative. It’s a lot of hard work but there are a lot of people around to help get you through. There’s a real sense of togetherness and a complete range of people on the course who all complement each other by having completely different skills and experiences.”
All apprentices are employed as police officers from day one and are supported through a three-year training programme. The majority of learning is done ‘on the job’ on one of London’s boroughs with some time spent with colleagues at one of London’s universities.
Upon successfully completing all elements of the apprenticeship, the officers are awarded a BSc (hons) degree in Professional Policing Practice.
Following this, they can go on to pursue one of many specialist roles should they wish to, including detective, specialist firearms officer and counter terrorism investigator.
The Met’s Director of Learning, Alex Walsh, said: “I am delighted to have welcomed our newest officers through the Met’s apprenticeship programme over the past 12 months. They bring a huge range of life experiences and skills to the Met, which is so important to delivering the very best police service we can to our richly diverse city.
"They’re already in uniform and out in local communities, helping the most vulnerable people in London, all while earning a competitive salary. The opportunity to gain a fully funded degree at the end of their training is a superb way to formally recognise the skills and knowledge it takes to be a police officer.
“To anyone who wants to make the lives of others better – who wants to protect and help the people who need it most – I encourage them to seriously consider applying to become a Met police officer because it really is an exceptionally rewarding job.”
For more information on the PCDA and to apply, see: