May 17, 2017, by lzzeb

Government Social Research Sandwich Scheme

A blog by Anna Scholes

At the start of my second year, I came across an email from the School of Geography detailing a placement opportunity with the UK Civil Service as a Social Researcher. Social Research was a profession I hadn’t previously heard of until I saw the email, but it immediately caught my interest. The premise of the job is conducting analysis to support the development, implementation and evaluation of government policy in specific areas. It seemed to me like a fantastic way for me to improve my analysis skills, get some amazing work experience, and conduct some research that could potentially have an impact on the way the country is run.

So I thought I’d apply. 12 month placements tend to be much more common in STEM subjects, with most Geography students who undertake placements just doing a couple of weeks in the summer. So I was a little apprehensive about the possibility of leaving my friends and studies for a year, especially as I knew no one on my course who had done something like this before. But once I was offered the job, I absolutely couldn’t turn it down!

Upon application, I had a choice of several government departments and locations, so there was loads of flexibility depending on your living arrangements and research interests. For me, HMRC in Manchester worked perfectly, as I could simply move back home and work there for the year. I began my post in the Knowledge, Analysis and Intelligence (KAI) directorate of HMRC in September 2016, in the Benefits and Credits (B&C) team. The wider team is made up of analysts from all backgrounds, including Economists, Statisticians and Operational Researchers. Work within B&C focusses mainly on researching Tax Credits, Universal Credit, and Tax Free Childcare – producing analysis to inform government policy in these areas.

My work while I’ve been here has been hugely varied. I’ve been trusted with organising and conducting my own research project looking at errors within Tax Credits (under supervision of course), alongside smaller bits of work for various customers. I also haven’t just stuck to Social Research – myself and 2 other Operational Research (OR) students entered an international OR analytics competition run by INFORMS, where we had to use predictive modelling to solve a business problem. We presented our solution in the final at their annual conference in Las Vegas, and were awarded first prize!

Source: INFORMS Connect

Opportunities like this to explore and succeed in areas of work I never previously knew existed has been one of the most exciting parts of my placement year. It’s also provided me with real world experience in conducting research that has a direct impact on how the country is run. I started my degree with no idea what I wanted to do in the future, but this has given me a real guide into where my degree can take me and has opened so many doors for future careers. If you want truly comprehensive and engaging work experience with real world impact, I’d definitely encourage you to apply.

If you’d like to know more about my experience on placement, please feel free to contact me!

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