During the summer, a group of Faculty students spent 10 weeks on work placements at the Department of Work and Pensions. Student Katherine writes about her time working for the Long-Term Strategy Team.
I spent 10 weeks during the summer as one of the 9 interns from the University of Sheffield at the Department of Work and Pensions. This placement was based in Sheffield and gave me a great insight into the policy making that happens outside of London. Now that I have come to the end of this placement, I can reflect on it, and hopefully offer some insight to those wanting to apply or summer placements, whether it be in the civil service or elsewhere.
I have always been interested in working within government, but I was never really sure what this would mean. Without first-hand experience, government and the civil service, due to the nature of the work, can be mysterious, so I jumped at the opportunity to see the other side. In the political sphere, my time at the DWP consisted of one new minister, one Chequers plan and summer recess — so eventful to say the least.
During my time at the DWP I worked in the Long-Term Strategy Team, looking at what may affect the DWP in the future. When I was first given this team, it did not jump out to me as an area of civil service policy that I was particularly interested in. Yet, over the next 10 weeks this is an area of policy that I learnt to love, and it gave me insight into many areas of the DWP.
The scariest part of my placement was an hour long workshop that I ran for other members of policy group. This workshop consisted of presenting my findings so far and run an activity to encourage the participant think long-term about possible problems for the DWP. This was an amazing experience to have with other, experienced, policy colleagues. I not only developed a presentation style that would work in the workshop setting, but also developed my leadership skills in this formal setting. These are skills that I know will later prove valuable in my later career.
I have developed several important skills over the placement which will be essential for future career opportunities. This ranges from basic communication such as email and telephone meeting etiquette; to more specific skills including source analysis and a writing style that works for the civil service.
However, it was surprising how many university skills that were helpful during my summer placement. Central to this were my researching skills since I had to find, read and condense a lot of information for the project that I was working on. This I had developed in researching essays during my time at university. But also, every presentation given in a seminar developed my communication style in presentations; this helped during the multiple presentations that I gave to my team.
These 10 weeks were invaluable, not only in showing me that I wanted to apply for the civil service, but also in developing skills that I will be able to transfer onto applications for any other career I may be interested in. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at DWP and I plan to apply for the civil service fast stream this year in the hope that I may return to the civil service.