Blog: A chance to step inside Number 10

Downing street

During the summer, a group of Faculty students spent 10 weeks on work placements at the Department of Work and Pensions. Politics and Philosophy student Fiona writes about her time working for the Long-Term Strategy Team.

I’ve just completed my second year of studying Politics and Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. I live here both in and out of term time, so when summer comes around I’m always on the look out for local jobs to repair any damage done to my student overdraft. For the past couple of years I’ve felt like the work experience that fills up my CV demonstrates that I am able to adapt to different roles, but I didn’t have any work experience that reflected what I’m interesting in doing in my future career. This is why I jumped at the chance to work for the DWP as a policy advisor.

At the moment I’m trying to decide whether I would like to be a social worker - specifically in the field of child protection - or if I would like to work on the policy side of things. I thought it would be helpful to get experience in this field, so that if I enjoyed it I could have a clear focus on what I will be applying for in the final year of my degree. However, I wasn’t aware that I would have the opportunity to do this without temporarily moving to London - until the Politics department alerted me to this opportunity, which is based here in Sheffield. I knew that the internship would offer me the experience I needed to learn more about policy making, so I had to apply! I completed the online application and then a face-to-face interview before being accepted onto the internship as part of the Disability and Employment Support Strategy team in long term reform.

The team I worked with assesses the current benefits system and then formulates ideas to improve relevant policy. Before I started this role I had a very limited understanding of this field of work; I didn’t know anything about disability benefits and I had no understanding of the role of policy within this area. In the first week or so I found the experience quite daunting as there was so much information that I needed to learn in order to get a good understanding of the kind of work I would be doing, but over the past few weeks I’ve really got a grasp of how the department works and I’ve been given a lot of my own responsibilities; researching international policy and putting together information to be used in ministerial meetings, for example.

The team I was involved with is split between Sheffield and London, so I’ve been able to travel down to the London office regularly and feel like a member of the team. In the last week of the internship my team invited me to be involved in a meeting at Number 10 - a place I never thought I would get a chance to step foot in - to discuss a letter due to be sent to the Prime Minister and be given a tour of the building.

Overall, it’s been a really hands-on experience which has been great for me to build confidence in my abilities and I have lots of interesting experiences to draw upon for future job applications and interviews. I would highly recommend this internship for anyone who wants to gain relevant work experience, where they can use the skills they’ve learned in their degree and be involved in valuable pieces of work instead of being the assigned office tea maker for a few weeks.