From the moment I received the confirmatory email from the UK Civil Service that my application to the Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) for the summer of 2021 had been successful, I immediately knew that this was a fantastic opportunity. As someone who had not been in employment up until that time, I was very excited to have the privilege of gaining first-hand work experience within the governmental sector, and I was determined to make the very most of it! I subsequently outline in this blog article my journey through the application process to the internship itself, and how it greatly enhanced my personal development.
I began my application for the SDIP programme in October 2020. The application process was conducted entirely on a remote basis due to the pandemic, with a series of psychometric assessments and additional information forms over the course of October and November, followed by a telephone interview in mid-December. I was notified that my application had been successful in April 2021. During the application process, I had been asked to outline my preferences for the policy areas in which I was interested, and I was informed that I had been allocated to one of my secondary preferences – the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – the following month in May. After a series of pre-employment checks and a helpful set of initial meetings with my line manager, I began my internship in mid-July.
The responsibilities that I undertook during this internship were predominantly administration and planning related. Due to the sensitive nature of the work, I am unable to go into too much detail, but I will note that I played a role in creating and updating a range of documents and papers, as well as attending a variety of meetings (one of which was my introduction to minute taking!). I, along with two other SDIP interns, even successfully organised for our team an online away-day, which included a general knowledge quiz that I had a fun and fulfilling time creating! Ultimately, completing these assignments allowed me to provide an important contribution to Defra, whilst the feedback that I received enabled me to learn more about the best approaches for performing tasks in working environments. I should also note that my internship was conducted on an entirely online-basis as that arrangement was the most suitable in my case, but interns also have the option of conducting their internships on at least a partly-in-person basis as well, illustrating the flexibility of the Civil Service’s work-life-balance approach. I therefore found serving as an SDIP intern to be a very rewarding role that provided me with the scope for further enhancing my working skills going forward.
Additionally, I participated in multiple information sessions and workshops delivered by experienced civil servants, which covered topics such as equality, diversity and inclusion, crisis management, and many more subjects of great importance to the Civil Service. I was also assigned to a mentor, who provided me with excellent advice about how to improve my working skills and personal confidence and was thus a great source of support to me during my internship. Moreover, I participated in a series of very helpful online information sessions with UpReach – an external partner of the Civil Service – which covered the application process for the Fast Stream graduate programme. This included a full online simulation of the Fast Stream Assessment Centre, in which I completed a leadership assessment, a teamwork assessment, and written assessment in the same way that the real assessment centre works, thus greatly informing my understanding of the process for applying to the Fast Stream programme. Subsequently, I found the support network available to interns to be very comprehensive and effective, and once again recommend the SDIP programme as excellent in the context of training and support.
In consideration of this, I regard my time as an SDIP intern in the Civil Service as a major personal milestone, as it was my first professional working experience and allowed me to gain a greater understanding of where my strengths lay, and how I could improve and enhance my skills going forward. Thus, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity that the Civil Service gave me, and I recommend the Summer Diversity Internship Programme and the Fast Stream to all students and graduates who are interested in working in public service.