The changing face of learning for police forces

Social and technological change will have a major impact on the police workforce over the next 20 years. As new technologies develop and converge, many of the demands on policing will become increasingly novel and complex, necessitating a more adaptive workforce with a more diverse set of skills and knowledge.

A key challenge will be blending advanced technical skills (eg, digital forensics) with interpersonal skills such as empathy, creativity and collaboration. At the same time, policing will also need to find new ways of connecting to the skills, expertise and resources that are available within a broader ‘ecosystem’ of partners, including volunteers, public services and private sector expertise. In an environment where few problems can be solved by the police alone, policing’s effectiveness will increasingly depend on the value of its relationships with partners as well as its ability to ‘orchestrate’ these through effective leadership, communication and consensus building.

Routes into the police

The traditional route into policing was to apply directly to one of the country’s police forces, follow the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) by completing a two-year probation period before becoming a police constable. This training contributed towards passing your Diploma in Policing.

While the IPLDP is currently being phased out, some forces still allow entry to the programme, with this path open to both graduates and non-graduates alike.

However, to ensure consistent standards across the UK’s forces, the College of Policing has worked with Chief Constables to create a new system of entry according to the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) that reflects modern policing techniques and the use of digital data in investigations.

Since January 2020, three routes are available:

  • Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) – A three-year Level 6 degree apprenticeship can be undertaken, which involves both on and off-the-job training. As with other apprenticeships, the earn while you learn principle still applies and upon successful completion of the programme applicants will have finished the probation period as a police constable and will have achieved the BSc Professional Policing Practice.
  • Degree-holder entry – For those who’ve studied an undergraduate degree in any subject, you can follow this work-based programme, which is supported by off-the-job learning. It typically takes two years to complete the probation and leads to a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
  • Pre-join degree – For people who haven’t already been to university, they can embark on a three-year BSc Professional Policing Practice programme before applying to a force and following a shorter period of on-the-job training. 

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Throughout an officer or staff member’s career within a force, continuing professional development will be an ongoing process. Where practicable, the police forces aim to support career development plans and ongoing training, by balancing this against the needs of the force. Officers and staff are generally given protected learning time to undertake studies for mandatory training.

CPD promotes lifelong learning and is underpinned by self-direction and self-management. Approaches to continuous development are unique to the officer, but may include hierarchical progression or self-development in the current post.  

Traditional Learning

Traditional opportunities for learning and continuous development take many forms and can arise on a daily basis, but typically may include:  

  • Mandatory training which is required on commencement of a new role or to maintain effectiveness within an existing role. Mandatory training may be provided by the force.
  • Training courses (Internal and External) 
  • Attachments  
  • Secondments  
  • Acting up  
  • Mentoring (advisory relationship with peers designed to provide guidance and advice on business process, policies and practices etc.)  
  • Coaching (taking an officer / member of staff through problems and issues with the intention of developing improved understanding, and the ability to deal with such problems and issues)  
  • Job shadowing  
  • Appointments to specialist posts  
  • Multi-skilling (gaining additional skills, knowledge or tasks within the same grade)  
  • Promotion  

The opportunity to learn at the pace of the individual and at a time to suit shift workers as well as other commitments is often the preferred way to learn for many in the police service. There are a number of post-graduate distance learning courses available to study from a range of universities allowing serving police officers the ability to attain post-graduate degrees whilst working full-time. 

For many, particularly in post-Covid times, online learning is the preferred way to learn. More and more public, private and third sector organisations are creating online courses to support the emergency services with their CPD.

Online Learning

The Policing Vision 2025 plan and a ‘Real lives, real crime’ report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) both identified the effect that digital crime and digital technology is having on policing. The reports also found a need for policing to better support and advise victims of crime and recommended better awareness of how to investigate and gather digital evidence.

The College of Policing interactive learning tools aim to tackle some of these recommendations and provide officers and staff with general digital policing skills so that they can respond appropriately to response calls: triaging the situation, protecting evidence and identifying if specialist support is needed.

The Police Crime Prevention Academy (PCPA), part of Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (PCPI), has recently launched a series of online courses that can be accessed without the need to be away from home or work and are relevant to employees at all levels and offer a good opportunity to upskill.

The online learning can be completed either as an accredited qualification or as a Continued Professional Development (CPD) course.

The Open University has a selected range of free-online learning resources that are relevant to policing. These free resources are known as Open Education Resources (OERs) or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and can be used to support CPD.

These courses contain a mixture of resources including videos, audio, learning activities and interactive quizzes, along with the option to download iBook learning materials.

For many officers though, the ability to learn ‘on the job’ particularly to get the best out of the software tools that they need to use on a regular basis can be just as important. 

Learning to get the best from your software

At NEC Software Solutions we know that learning to get the best from your software can’t be achieved in a single one-off training course. That’s why we have created a digital learning platform for our Connect software users. Our expert team of trainers have developed a full range of online learning content for all Connect modules, tailored to different learning styles and supported by quick reference guides and training manuals. 

Our eLearning modules, made up of simulation and familiarisation exercises as well as a wide selection of videos, ‘videostrations’ and talking heads.

We work with our partner forces to conduct Training Needs Analysis, identifying each role which will use Connect and what they require to be trained on and build the modules into a Learning Journey for each role ensuring that your users are trained only on the areas of Connect that they need to know.

Our direct learning solutions are accessible via desktop and mobile devices ensuring that users can dip in and out of content wherever they have access to the internet learning at their own pace.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your organisation take advantage of the latest technology, let us know at or call us on 01442 768445.