Isobel @ DWP

Isobel discusses working as a statistics intern for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Person with ibook working on graphs

The first few days

Over the summer holidays, I completed an eight-week placement at the Department for Work and Pensions as a statistics intern. I was placed in the Labour Market Briefing and Analysis team, a cross-locality team based in Sheffield and London.

My first few days mainly involved being introduced to my team and the other student interns in Rockingham House, the building I was based in, and getting set up on the DWP systems. On the Thursday of my first week, I spent a day in London on a divisional away-day. This was a great opportunity to meet with the wider divisional team who were based across sites in England. Each team provided a brief presentation on the work they were currently undertaking, ranging from analysing sanctions to the Labour Force Survey.

During the placement

Whilst on placement, I completed several tasks, both independently and alongside my team members. My work principally involved locating data, interpreting it and creating appropriate data visualisations to indicate labour market trends. This information would then be used to answer parliamentary questions, included in ministerial briefing packs, or sent to other colleagues within the DWP.

The majority of my data analysis occurred in Microsoft Excel, although I did also learn the basics of using SAS, and completed a few small pieces of coding in R. Furthermore, I undertook elements of social research as part of my role, analysing and synthesising academic and government reports for the team.

As someone who holds a strong interest in both politics and statistics, the opportunity which DWP presented was ideal"


DWP intern

I got to take advantage of the wide variety of training courses which DWP offers. I did a selection of these across my placement period, including how to write ministerial briefings and an introductory micro and macroeconomics session. Getting to participate in courses such as these gave me a deeper insight into the work DWP completed. Additionally, DWP also held ‘fast stream’ workshops to provide summer interns with an insight into the graduate fast stream process. In these sessions, we were able to practise some of the exercises we would be expected to carry out at the civil service fast stream assessment centre. I found this highly beneficial and it will hopefully support any future applications I make for the civil service.

Reflecting on the placement

One of the most memorable days of my placement was getting to job shadow at a Jobcentre Plus in Sheffield. It was really interesting to experience the ‘on the ground’ implementation of the policies around which DWP advises. Likewise, the ONS labour market statistics release day was probably my most intense but enjoyable day of work. We decided that given the uncertainty surrounding the extra-work which would be generated because it was the first month without pre-release access, the whole team would commute to our London offices.

I spent the night before in London, to ensure I could start work sufficiently early. Once the data was released, all hands were on deck to ensure we updated, checked and submitted the required briefing papers to ministers and departments on time, as well as that the necessary press statements were accurate and published.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my placement. As someone who holds a strong interest in both politics and statistics, the opportunity which DWP presented, to use my analytical skills to support policy creation, implementation and monitoring, was ideal.

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Why Numbers Matter

SMI's series on why it's important to get numbers right.

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