Edinburgh Graduates making a difference with the Scottish Government

Some of you may have noticed that the Scottish Government’s Graduate Development Programme is currently being advertised on MyCareerHub. For anyone interested in a career in the public sector in Scotland, it’s definitely worth looking into. It’s a four-year career development scheme for high-calibre candidates who want to make a difference to the lives of the people in Scotland.

The 20 successful applicants will join the government as civil servants and enter a programme of postings and development to prepare them for senior roles at the centre of Scotland’s network of public services and institutions.

The last intake for the programme was in 2015, and 5 University of Edinburgh graduates were accepted onto the programme. We caught up with them last year to find out how they were getting on and their answers give a great insight into the programme, which  you may find useful if you are considering applying for the 2017 intake.

Q. Can you each tell us a bit about your current role?

Nadia Bessos, BSc (Hons) Zoology, graduated 2004:  I’m currently on my third, six-month placement of the Graduate Development Programme, working in the Agriculture and Rural Development division as a Policy Officer. My role involves assisting in the development of an agriculture strategy for Scotland, and working with analytical colleagues to review how farmers implemented the Common Agricultural Policy activity and greening options in 2015, following reforms to the scheme.

Kyle Malcolm, MA (Hons) History, graduated 2013: I’m in the Constitution Team, within the Constitution and UK Relations Division. It’s a particularly fascinating time to be in this area, given the result of the EU referendum. Our team are currently occupied with a variety of work streams relating to Scotland and Brexit. Given the Brexit landscape is continuing to rapidly evolve, it means the work I do on a day to day basis can be very varied. I have also had the opportunity to get involved with projects being carried forward by other teams within the Division, and this diversity of work has been both interesting and challenging.

Andrew Forsyth, MSc International Development, graduated 2014: I lead the policy work relating to Credit Unions in Scotland. This involves managing the relationship between key individuals and organisations in the Credit Union sector and the Scottish Government and working closely with Ministers on the future strategy in this policy area.

Chloe Duxbury, MSc Ecological Economics, graduated 2011: I am currently in my third rotation and working in the Empowering Schools Unit within the Learning Directorate. The Unit was set up to work on the Education Governance Review, which involves looking at the whole education system to see what we can do to empower teachers, parents and communities and to ensure that children and young people have a say in how their education system works. Education is a priority for the current administration and my team reports to the Deputy First Minister. Following a period of consultation where we have been talking to a wide range of people across Scotland, my job will be to provide the DFM with policy options that will support the results that we want to see. The work is really varied, both in who I get to work with as well as what I actually do.

Ben Warrington, MA (Hons) International Relations, graduated 2015: I have been in two postings so far: European Relations and International Trade and Investment Policy. Both have allowed me the chance to get involved in a broad range of work. Nonetheless, in the first I was chiefly working on the project team that has developed and coordinated Scottish Government’s position on the EU Referendum. In the second I am helping take forward the Government’s new Trade and Investment Strategy, part of which involves supporting the Innovation and Investment Hub that we have recently opened in Dublin.

 Q. What made you want to work with the Scottish Government?

Nadia Bessos: When the Graduate Development Programme was advertised I saw it as a great opportunity to work for a diverse organisation who is responsible for most issues of day-to-day concern for the people of Scotland, such as health, justice and the environment, and where I could make a real contribution to society. Scottish Government is a progressive employer, with a clear commitment to equality and diversity. The Graduate Development Programme gives you the opportunity to work in different areas of Government, from policy development to operational roles, and complements this with an ongoing learning and development package to engender leadership skills.

Q. What has been the most interesting part of the role?

Kyle Malcolm: The most interesting part of the role is the sheer variety of work you are involved in. You will move between policy areas regularly on the Graduate Development Programme, and getting to grips with the different policy issues in each area keeps things interesting and ensures you are regularly tackling something new. It also lets you see how the work you are involved in directly connects with the lives of the people of Scotland. In every post, you can contribute to work which will ultimately impact on the real world and real lives; and it is gratifying to have the opportunity to make a positive difference.

Q. What are the main challenges of the work?

Andrew Forsyth: I have found that the main challenge of the work is getting used to how Government works in terms of processes and procedures. One of the biggest challenges but at the same time one of the most exciting aspects, is how interconnected lots of different pieces of work are. I work with and meet so many different colleagues whilst working on fascinating elements of work and they are able to provide expertise and advice that aids my stream of work. However the challenge in all of that is making sure that all the work joins up and everyone communicates what they are doing.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in similar careers?

Chloe Duxbury: Go for it! If you are interested in public service and keen to keep on learning new things then joining the Civil Service this is a great career to choose. It doesn’t matter if what stage of life you are at, what you studied or when you graduated.  If you can, get some work experience or look for a project/club/society/group to get involved with where you will have the potential to demonstrate leadership qualities. This will likely give you some good, tangible examples to use throughout the application process and will also make you more aware of yourself and how the way you work impacts on others around you. If you want to, keep notes of times you did things well and how you influenced the outcome – you never know when such notes might be useful!

Q. Where do you see your career developing from here?

Ben Warrington: I chose the Graduate Development Programme because it is specifically designed to give us a broad range of placement experiences over the 4 years, offering us a valuable springboard for our career. This is also the great thing about being a civil servant in the Scottish Government more generally – it touches on so many policy areas (even more so after the recent Scotland Act) that there are countless opportunities to work in a field that you are passionate about. Furthermore, the learning and development programme we have been put on is hopefully equipping with the necessary skills to progress up the organisation in the coming years.

If you have been inspired to follow in the footsteps of these graduates, take a look at the job listing for the Scottish Government Graduate Development Programme on MyCareerHub. Applications close on 20th Feb 2017.

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