Police forensics apprentice inspires budding crime-busters

Sixth Form students at Plantsbrook School got a glimpse into life behind the scenes on crime investigation, when they heard a fascinating talk from an apprentice in a police forensics unit.

Mia Web Mayer, Fingerprint Development Laboratory Technical Team leader at West Midlands Police, visited the school with 19-year-old apprentice Charlie Brothwood on Tuesday, October 11.

Charlie is three months into an 18-month apprenticeship with the force, with a guarantee of six months more work afterwards, during which she can try to secure a full-time position.

She and Mia spoke about their work and the benefits of taking the apprenticeship route into the workplace, as well as answering questions from the students at the school, which is part of the Broadleaf Partnership Trust.

Charlie said: “I think school visits like this are very valuable. As a student I would have loved something like this, as I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do!

“I think it probably also helps for the students to be able to hear from someone like me, who was in their position just a couple of years ago.

“Initially, when I went into the job, I had no idea what to expect because I don’t have a background in forensics or science.

“As soon as I started, I loved it. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, as there’s something new every day.”

Mia said: “I think there are a lot of students that are interested in forensics, so opportunities like this are important to help them understand there are different entry routes into the job.

“We are one of the only police forces in the country that offer an apprenticeship for forensic science students, and our apprentices get as much exposure to the different departments within forensics as possible, from the fingerprint bureau to the major crime lab.

“We also arrange attachments to digital forensics, forensic crime scene investigation and even working with the expert drug witnesses we use too.

“The idea is to ensure they get an understanding of what forensic work is really like, as they often have a glamorised idea of it.”

The pair work at West Midlands Police Forensic Services, at Ridgepoint House, Bromford Lane, in a department that features in the BBC2 documentary series ‘Forensics: The Real CSI’. Mia is set to feature in the next series, which is filming now.

“The film crew follow the police officers in their work, then pick it up with us in the lab as we look at the evidence,” she said.

“I think it’s good for the public to see how a real forensics department actually functions, and the level of detail we have to go into, rather than the glamorised version you see in dramas.

“We want the students to understand that forensics is a rewarding career with real job satisfaction. Ultimately, our purpose at West Midlands Police is to protect the public from harm, and by developing fingerprints and identifying or eliminating suspects we’re helping victims of crime, whether that’s a burglary, murder or anything in between.”

Charlie added: “The best thing about being an apprentice, I think, is that while there are lots of different age ranges in the department, and obviously people with much more experience than me, everyone is treated the same and I am judged on my work and attitude. The apprenticeship route is a very direct and useful way to get into the job.”

Plantsbrook Careers Advisor Sarah Dullea said: “This was a great, engaging session which the students found really fascinating.

“Charlie was able to give them a view of being an apprentice that they could really relate to, because she is so new to the role and was in their position only a few years ago.

“The visit was one of the regular talks we arrange for our sixth formers, so they can find out about different professions and careers, as well as giving them an understanding of the different routes they can take into the workplace.”

Headteacher Jason Farr said: “I’d like to thank Mia and Charlie for taking time out of their busy schedule to come and talk to our Sixth Form. I know the students found it both interesting and valuable.”


Charlie Brothwood and Mia Web Mayer, of West Midlands Police’s Forensics unit, with Plantsbrook Sixth Formers.

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