Invaluable work experience in the heart of the civil service

Undergraduate students from University Centre Leeds have been rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s top civil servants.

Ten degree students from the Business School travelled to London in March to spend two days working in the Department for Transport (DfT).

During the trip they took part in a variety of practical exercises, designed to give an insight into the department’s work, including mock projects and interview panels.

They also got to meet two of the UK’s highest level civil servants, Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Baroness Vere.

The opportunity came about after Carole Lovstrom and Charlotte Bedford, co-chairs of the DfT’s Social Mobility Network, gave a talk during UC Leeds’ Women in Leadership programme.

Lecturers Nicola Wilson and Greg Tidswell, who accompanied the students on the trip, hailed it as a ‘great success’.

A glimpse of a ‘whole new world’

Nicola said: “The visit provided students with invaluable opportunities to interact with people in many roles within the DfT, including the Permanent Secretary and Under Secretary.

“They were also given a range of practical opportunities to engage in to give them an idea of the type of work that is carried out, and a demonstration of what a typical civil service interview looks like.

“There was a real buzz throughout the two days and the students found the experience both rewarding and hugely enjoyable.

“They came away with a newfound knowledge of the diverse range of roles that are available within the civil service, and the flexibility and encouragement afforded to employees to move and grow within the organisation.

“We are hugely grateful to Carole, Charlotte, and everyone else at DfT who played a part in making it such a wonderful and rewarding experience.”

Greg said: “The two days we spent in London showed our students a whole new world – one that many did not know existed – within the civil service.

“The energy this trip has given to our students has been outstanding. Speaking with them, during and after the trip, has confirmed how valuable these kind of ‘out of the norm’ experiences are for exposing students to new avenues of working and development.”

The students were all drawn from Leadership, Business and Travel degree courses.

Students relish one-off opportunity

Students facing a mock interview panel at the Department for Transport, London

Leadership and Management BA (Hons) student Haleema Jabeen said: “I am in my final year and it was such a great opportunity to be chosen for this trip.

“It has given me a great insight into, and experience of, the workings of senior stakeholders in the civil service. They are dealing with complex projects in time-driven environments, and we saw how crucial management is to the delivery of all departments.”

Leadership and Management student Emily McCormick said: “I found the trip really useful in looking at the alternative futures available to me.

“I have always worked in a small business so it was interesting to see how a large organisation operated.

“I think the trip allowed us, as students, to envisage a potential career in the civil service.”

Fellow management student Ryan Shuckford added: “The experience was highly beneficial for my personal development and my awareness of the civil service and neurodiversity.

“The experience provided me with the opportunity to practise the theoretical elements of leadership that I have learnt at the University Centre, pinpoint my personal interest, and determine where my skills are most applicable.

“If anyone has the chance of a similar opportunity, I would highly recommend taking it!”

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