Jack Radford is a current BA History student who has just completed a year in industry working as Defence Analyst at the Defence, Science & Technology Laboratory.
How did you find out about the placement scheme?
The University’s Careers and Employability Service got in contact after I got my first year results and informed me that I could still choose to change from ‘History’ to ‘History with a Professional Placement Year’, which would add a year to my course between my second and third stages. I attended their talks to learn what the placement scheme was about and what students had done during their placements. The Humanities Placement Year Scheme is one of the most overlooked tools by students. In my case it has defined and paved the way for my career after Kent.
How did you obtain your placement?
I used the resources made available to me through the Careers and Employability Service, including tailored search engines and the free appointments available to all students (which I highly recommend). It was at one of these appointments where I spoke to a Kent alumnus who had become a successful civil servant via the Civil Service Fast Stream. She gave me advice which was crucial to my successful application to a job at the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory [DSTL], an executive agency of the UK Ministry of Defence.
What did you do?
My role was very diverse but involved UK strategy and security policy. My team produces reports on the UK’s strategic capabilities and hosts workshops to discuss current and future threat environments and scenarios. Some of the most enjoyable work I was a part of was the development of DSTL’s wargaming capability. This can almost be reduced to being paid to play strategy games. Discussing the schemes of manoeuvre and tactical approaches in various operational scenarios, land air and sea, was something I never got bored of. I also used my knowledge of history to plot possible future conflicts, also called ‘Future History’, which is used by Force Structure Analysts to test the UK’s ability to respond to a likely future threat scenario.
The most fun moment was when I got a ride in a Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle and got to operate the turret as we manoeuvred over hills and through fields. My most proud moment was being entrusted with the assessment of a new AI-driven machine-learning research tool which I presented to the customers myself at the Ministry of Defence’s Main Building in Whitehall after months of work. DSTL did an amazing job providing my placement with variety both in terms of task and location. The organisation made such a good impression on me that it is my hope that I will be sponsored and able to return there after my studies.
Your defence sector tips?
Do not be intimidated by the serious nature of the work. First and foremost, speak to and learn from everyone. Don’t worry about a person in military dress being present for what you might deem a silly question – asking questions is respected and it is acknowledged by all that learning the basics of military lingo and acronyms takes a little bit of time. The training that is available is unreal and exciting, get involved with everything that you can and you will develop lifetime expertise without even realising, making yourself a valuable asset with your own unique blend of defence specialisms.
How would you review the placement scheme?
I cannot overstate the importance of being able to demonstrate the application of your transferable skills in a professional environment; my employers placed the placement module alongside my degree itself in terms of value. This is especially true for us Humanity generalists, where the career your degree takes you may be less clear. Think of the placement scheme as a […] boost to what you can bring to the table when applying to your future graduate job – who knows, you may be able to circumvent that entire process if you succeed in securing a sponsorship! In my case, the placement scheme has provided me with clarity and confidence in terms of my career aspirations, and I am so thankful to DSTL and to the placement scheme for providing me with a significant advantage when I apply next, as a graduate.