Until I started my Criminology and Social Policy degree at Kent University, I didn’t know what the Civil Service was or what it did. In fact, I didn’t properly grasp this until I undertook a nine-week internship with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2014, as a part of the Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP). I was eligible for the programme because I am from a lower socio-economic background.
When I was growing up, everybody around me was just like me. I didn’t really know anyone who had much money, or who didn’t go to their local comprehensive. It was normal to me that my school was failing and that my teachers told me to “just aim for a C” when I was in the top set. It’s only when you break out of the world in which you grew up that you realise that not everyone is like you. I began to feel different to other people at university, and really different to other people when I went to the LSE to do a Masters. I doubted myself a lot and always thought that other people were better than me.
I was therefore nervous about applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream; I never thought I’d be good enough. When I started my internship at DCLG, at first I was intimidated by the Fast Streamers, some of the other interns, the jargon, and just about everything! However, my fears were soon allayed as I was welcomed in and accommodated so warmly by everyone around me. The Civil Service has a huge and wonderful focus on diversity. Whoever you are, whatever your background, the Civil Service wants and needs your input, and you are made to feel this from your first day.
The first time that I applied for the Fast Stream I didn’t get past the e-Tray stage, however, after completing the SDIP I was offered support and help from the SDIP team that helped me to successfully get through on my second try. I am now in my third six-month placement on the generalist scheme and I have found it to be a rewarding and challenging experience. The transition from education to work has been incredibly smooth, thanks to the focus on continuous learning and professional and personal development on the Fast Stream. The skills that I’ve learned have allowed me to excel in my roles and to feel much more confident in my own ability.
"Whoever you are, whatever your background, the Civil Service wants and needs your input, and you are made to feel this from your first day."
My first posting was at the Department for Work and Pensions, where I worked on the programmes that get people off benefits and into work. I travelled all over the UK, from Edinburgh to Cornwall, meeting a variety of colleagues and stakeholders. I then moved back to DCLG where I worked on the Neighbourhood Planning Bill team. This role was very exciting and fast-paced, and I worked closely with ministers and Parliament. I’m now on secondment with Hackney Council, working on community and economic development.
In all of my roles I have found that my background has in some ways helped me to succeed, allowing me to see things from a different point of view to many of my colleagues. I would really encourage anyone with an interest to think about joining the Fast Stream, even if you don’t think you’re good enough. There’s a good chance that you are, and that the Civil Service is looking for someone just like you!