On the 20th October, the Careers Service hosted a virtual panel event with representatives in the government and public services sector. The aim of the event was to give undergraduates a flavour of the types of graduate schemes and roles within a variety of public sectors, including the Civil Service, Local Government, NHS Leadership Programme and the Office of National Statistics.
Civil Service Fast Stream
James Wood, the Civil Service representative who is on one of their graduate fast stream programmes, kicked off the panel by discussing his experience of the scheme. James reflected on his time as an undergraduate and not knowing the career path he wanted to take but expressed how he was attracted to the Civil Service Fast Stream programme because graduates get to try a whole host of roles in different projects. The Civil Service Fast Stream is a 3-4 year role working within broad areas such as Statistics or Engineering and allows graduates to apply skills to different projects in different areas of the public sector. During the role, graduates take on short-term postings with different line managers but their personal and professional development is continually supported by one Fast Stream manager.
The highlights for joining the Civil Service Fast Stream include exposure to difference skills, leadership development, the fast-paced learning environment and the ability to learn a wide variety of skills across a variety of projects within a relatively short period of time. The Civil Service are very transparent about what they are looking for and how they choose the best candidates for the scheme so James' piece of advice was to use all available resources and explore the opportunities that they can provide for you. Find out more here.
National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP)
The next employer was from the NGDP, a graduate scheme working with local governments and councils in a variety of policy areas. Katharine Goodger, the representative, spoke passionately about how rewarding the scheme is and that graduates are at the front-line of decision making, with the ability to see the real-life effects of their work. The scheme is 2 years, with 3 or 4 different postings across English and Welsh Councils. The programme also gives graduates a fully funded leadership and management qualification which is the equivalent of a Masters qualification in project and people management. Katharine highlighted the variety of work and eye-opening experiences you can have within the programme and stressed that you do not have to be "political" to work for local government, but rather you need to be passionate about delivering projects that will benefit local communities. Like the Civil Service Graduate Scheme, the NGDP supports learning and development of their graduates by helping them progress their professional skills. This graduate role is designed to give people a flavour of all the elements that are at play within local government and give graduates real responsibility from the start. Find out more here.
NHS Leadership Academy
Attendees then got the chance to hear from Eleanor Wallace from the NHS Leadership Academy who was on their graduate scheme and has continued to work with the organisation to recruit and manage new cohorts of graduates. Like James, Eleanor did not know what she wanted to do with her background in science and knew she did not want to go into academia. After some research, she found she could combine her interest of medicine and the healthcare sector with business operations and leadership. The NHS Leadership Academy operates similarly to other graduate schemes formerly mentioned because the graduates go on placements and manage a variety of teams and projects in different areas of the NHS. Graduates can organise and shape their placements and they do not all have to be within the NHS; Eleanor did a posting for a healthcare consultancy firm and experienced the convergence between the private and public sector. The scheme is designed to help you develop your leadership abilities and give graduates an understanding of what drives them and how they can combine their skills and interests to guide their career. Eleanor also emphasised the support given to graduates from managers and mentors, and how these contacts are crucial for helping the trainees develop confidence and motivation. There are six areas that graduates can train in, including General Management, Finance, HR, Policy and Strategy, Health Informatics and Health Analytics. Find out more here.
Office of National Statistics (ONS)
Lastly, Ed Palmer from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shared his experience as a working professional who has worked in both the public and private sector, and his advice for graduates. Ed described the type of work that is undertaken in the ONS and how this impacts people, local authorities and national government. From baby names to business economics, the ONS is responsible for reporting on a vast range of statistics about Britain's social, political and economic makeup. Due to the scope of the ONS, the work is influenced by events we have all heard of, from Brexit to Covid; the work of the ONS is comprehensive, rewarding, and highly important for decision makers. There are lots of different projects and paths within the ONS but being confident with numbers and data is a key skill. Graduates can expect to be placed on a variety of projects throughout their time, ranging from public departments to working as a professional (e.g. an economist across multiple projects). Ed also stressed the importance of professionalism and objectivity- candidates are assessed on their ability to work according to the needs of the government of the day, rather than their own political opinions. The opportunities for personal and professional development within the ONS are also something they pride themselves on. The development focus enables their graduates to make the most of their time at the ONS and build a meaningful career in the public sector. Find out more here.
As a final year Politics Student, I found this session extremely insightful- it showed me the variety of careers within the public service and the types of roles that exist. I found it particularly interesting to hear that the graduates came from all different backgrounds, from science to humanities. The public sector is integral to our daily lives but this session but into perspective the amount of work and career paths available within the public sphere. The speakers were all very candid about their experiences as undergraduates applying for schemes and gave some really useful tips about applying, such as looking at employer websites for their tips and guidance for applications. I also really liked how the different speakers drew on each other’s work in a comparative style; it helped piece together how these institutions fit into the public sector and the different remits of their work.
For more information about future careers event, visit the MyFuture portal or speak to our careers advisors.