My journey from the University of Kent to the Civil Service Fast Stream
Rosie Melville, is Kent Alumni and a previous winner of the EP prize, ‘Highest Scoring Student Studying a Social Studies related Degree’, where she was provided an iPad from Medway Council.
When I started my degree at Kent in 2011, I had heard of the Civil Service but I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was or what it did. I studied Criminology and Social Policy, and whilst my original interest was definitely more in the former, I went on to decide to pursue a career in the latter. I remember sitting in a Social Policy seminar in my first year, evaluating different policies and coming up with our own solutions to social problems. I absolutely loved it and decided to go to the careers centre to find out how I could do this as a career. The careers advisor told me about the Civil Service and what it did, and that’s when I decided to combine my interests and aim for a career in Criminal Justice Policy within the Civil Service.
For those (like me in first year) who don’t know what the Civil Service is, the definition on the government website is: ‘The Civil Service helps the government of the day develop and implement its policies as effectively as possible’. Essentially, you can do anything you like and be anyone you want to be in the Civil Service. You can switch policy areas and even professions.
The careers advisor told me about the Civil Service’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP), which is now one of the two internship programmes that the Fast Stream team run. The SDIP is open to those from a low socioeconomic background, ethnic minorities and people with a disability and runs for 6-9 weeks in the summer, for those in their second or third year of uni. I applied in my third year and was placed in the Department for Communities and Local Government for 8 weeks. For me, this was a ‘try before you buy’ thing, where I could see if the Civil Service was definitely for me before applying for a permanent job. I ended up loving it; the work was interesting and felt relevant and important, and I loved being based in Westminster and spending afternoons in Parliament with Ministers.
I graduated from Kent in 2014 and unfortunately had failed to get a place on the Civil Service’s graduate programme, the Fast Stream. I decided to do an MSc at LSE in Criminal Justice Policy for the following year whilst applying to the Fast Stream for a second time. Thankfully I received a lot of support as a former SDIP intern and from the Kent careers centre, which meant that this time, I was successful! Now the deal is even better for SDIPers, as those who successfully complete their internships get a ‘fast pass’ to the Fast Stream assessment centre (meaning that they skip three steps of the assessment process).
I am now in my third six month posting as a Fast Streamer on the generalist scheme. This is one of the 18 schemes on offer, and essentially means that I do a bit of everything! All of my postings have been completely different; I spent my first posting in the Department for Work and Pensions, where I worked with Job Centres and Benefits Centres. I then joined a Bill Team in the Department for Communities and Local Government, where I was on a team creating legislation, working closely with Ministers and Parliament. I am now on secondment to Hackney Council, which is another huge (but really interesting) change. Whilst I haven’t worked in Criminal Justice Policy yet, the Fast Stream is about gaining a huge diversity of experiences, knowledge and skills before settling into a permanent management role in your chosen area. I’m hoping to achieve this in just under 3 years, but for now I’m enjoying learning all about the ins and outs of the government.
My advice to anyone who wants to apply is to be yourself, the Civil Service wants and needs diversity. Get as involved as you can in extracurricular activities and events, this will help you to develop skills to get through the application process and to succeed on the job. Finally, don’t give up, I was unsuccessful when I first applied, but tried again and now I’m a year and a half in!
To find out more about the Fast Stream and the related internships, please visit: https://www.faststream.gov.uk/
You can also like our Facebook page, which is specifically for Kent students: https://www.facebook.com/unikentfaststream/
The Civil Service Fast Stream are offering some fantastic EP rewards for 2016-17, for more information see here.