There is always a deep sense of excitement and anticipation when you wait to hear what your next fast stream post will be. Which department? Which policy area? Who will be in my new team?
As you can imagine, when I was told that my first posting was to be in Bee and Pollinator Health, I was thrilled. Everyone loves bees, it’s a really good cause and did you know that there are at least 1500 species of insect pollinators in the UK?
My posting did not disappoint. I was able to experience a very traditional policy role; providing briefings and submissions to ministers, responding to correspondence, working with stakeholders and developing a communications strategy. However, I was also fortunate to witness policy delivery, and to see government policy in action on the ground. A highlight of my posting was donning a beekeeper’s suit to accompany a Regional Bee Inspector as they inspected hives, everywhere from National Trust properties to private back gardens. On a number of occasions I visited local environmental projects to see the incredible work community groups are doing for pollinators.
Pollinator policy might not sound like a ‘typical’ posting - but that is the point. There is no ‘typical’ posting. The Civil Service is so very broad in its policy coverage. If you can think of a subject relevant to the public, it is highly likely that someone, somewhere in a government department will be coming up with plans and ideas for making a difference in that area. And in the fast stream you are really able to benefit from this variety with the regular posting rotations. Indeed, I would say that what perhaps most differentiates the fast stream from other similar schemes is the huge variety in the programme. I personally have found it very stimulating to get to grips with new policy areas. For example, as well as bees, I have worked on free schools policy, information management, I have been on secondment to the City, and now I am back in Defra doing water policy. Many others have a similarly varied fast stream career!
As well as being very interesting, working in a variety of policy areas is fantastic for your own personal development. It trains you to be quick at picking up information, at building relationships, and at making your mark. It gives you a sense of the bigger picture and how government priorities feed into the many different areas of policy work. It also provides an opportunity to experience various ways of working and management styles, as you begin to consider the sort of manager you want to be.
Rotating between a number of policy areas may sound daunting, but I can assure you that you that there is plenty of support in place to ensure that postings are a success. The fast stream offers a breadth of L&D to equip fast streamers with the skills they need, with courses and e-learning on areas such as policy skills, people management and briefing ministers. There is also a strong support network with fast stream and departmental managers, and the option to have coaching sessions.
I am only partway through my year-long third year posting. However, I know that when this posting does draw to an end, that same feeling of anticipation and excitement will return as I await to be told my fourth year posting. It’s a privilege to gain an insight into so many different departments. It’s also an invaluable opportunity to experience first-hand what I might want to focus on when I leave the fast stream. Whether bees or education policy or something else, the next posting will be another opportunity for development and to immerse myself in a new and interesting policy area.