Why JCIS is still keeping me interested after 36 years: Mark Cockerham

“Don’t you ever get bored of doing the same job for all this time Dad?” my children (19 and 25) ask me.

Their career paths have been quite different, going into the private sector to work in Jersey and London. While I reflect on this, I can definitely say that even after 36 years of joining Customs and Immigration (JCIS) as an Officer, one feeling I have never had is boredom!

The scope of the work is enormous; JCIS is the equivalent amalgamation of HM Revenue and Customs/UK Visas/ HM Passport Office/National Crime Agency/UK Border Force and more. Officers move round the various disciplines and work with local stakeholders such as External Relations, Law Officers, States of Jersey Police, Revenue Jersey and Customer & Local Services. Training, attachments and working operationally with other agencies in the UK and France also give another dimension to the work. Having the knowledge and skills to deal with this scope is key to our deployment, and provides a more efficient model of operation by being able to deal with a range of incidents and, at short notice, place officers where the demand/risk is. For example, when officers attend an arrival at the ports, even though we are intelligence-led, they don’t always know what they may be faced with when opening, say a boot of a car; it could be a drugs concealment, cigarettes, alcohol, animals, large amounts of cash… previously a person has been found in this way (without a passport but alive and well, I hasten to add!) It’s not always about enforcement though, and providing a service – be it passport or visa issuance, or naturalisation to become a British citizen – are all priorities for JCIS.

As Head of Service, I feel privileged to hold the post of Agent of the Impôts, one of the oldest Government posts in Jersey, dating back to 1602 in the days of smuggling gunpowder and rum! Perhaps even though the commodities have changed, the principles remain the same; preventing smuggling and collecting import taxes. Of course, Border work has changed enormously with the influence of global trends such as drugs trafficking, illegal immigration and Brexit, the latter of which has resulted in the biggest changes to goods control since the 1970s (so I’m told, I haven’t quite been in Government that long!). I’ve also seen the introduction of new import taxes such as GST and vehicle emission duty. All the import tax including alcohol/tobacco/fuel and customs duty JCIS collects amounts to circa £88 million annually so a key part of our work, and the government’s income.

I think the variety of work, with a genuine sense of making a difference to the Island by having an effective border helping make Jersey a safe place to live, gives all the staff a real sense of purpose in the work we do. It has been a few years since I was on the coast waiting for the boat to arrive covertly on the east coast, but I still feel that real sense of purpose in the work my colleagues and I do.

We are now looking forward to the challenges over the next 3 to 5 years in our workforce planning, and considering the skills needed in workstreams such as technology as we move to a more digital environment in areas such as intelligence, and passport issuance, forgery detection and international border control.

Creating a workforce equipped with the right skills to meet these challenges is key in my planning, so for anyone with those skills considering a career in JCIS, I can thoroughly recommend it after 36 years and going strong!

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