W4MP recently met Ellen Wright who is currently coming to the end of her year on the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme (SPPS). She’s about to move back into the ‘real world’ but, before she does, she agreed to tell us about her experience. Here it is below.
We get a certain amount of flack at W4MP about taking some unpaid internships on our Jobs page so it’s good to be singing the praises of a scheme which provides paid internships for exactly those people who would otherwise not have the opportunity or not be able to afford to work in Parliament.
Ellen also said some nice things about W4MP which we can’t resist adding, too; it’s at the end of her piece below.
For those interested, applications for the 2013/2014 SPPS cohort closed on 22nd April 2013. No date has been set for the 2014/15 applications yet, but we understand that they are most likely to open again early spring 2014. You can, though, read more about the scheme:
By Ellen Wright, 2012/2013 SPPS Cohort
The Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme, set up by the Speaker and the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears MP along with Jo Swinson MP and Eric Ollerenshaw MP, is approaching the end of its second year. The Scheme offers a nine-month paid internship working with an MP in Parliament. Administered by the Social Mobility Foundation and funded through sponsorship from the private sector, it enables talented people, who would not otherwise have the opportunity, to get a foot in the door of the world of politics. I was one of nine successful candidates selected from a field of over 500 to participate in this year’s Scheme.
Previously I worked at a start-up streetwear clothing label – our brand was positive and all about making people feel not only proud about where they had come from, but positive about where they could get to. As part of this I did a lot of community engagement work – trying to affect a positive change and build confidence in young people. This was what really sparked a deeper interest in politics and ultimately was what led me to apply to the Scheme.
I was keen to gain further experience in the world of politics, but found it difficult to get a break – I didn’t know anyone who worked in Parliament and definitely couldn’t afford to do an unpaid internship. I saw the Scheme advertised on the Jobcentre plus website – and it was the opportunity for which I had been waiting – I didn’t hesitate in going for it.
Initially, I felt that someone like me wouldn’t fit in at Parliament. I viewed it as a world of privilege, and thought people would assume I would be a hindrance rather than a help. However, with drive and commitment there is scope to achieve a lot in Parliament regardless of your background. People were welcoming and for the most part do respect hard work and aspiration. I have already secured a fantastic new role in a private sector organisation with global brand recognition and could not have done this without the experience gained on my placement.
I would encourage MPs to think seriously about whether to offer long-term unpaid internships – unpaid placements will limit your field of candidates and as Alan Milburn’s 2012 report on fair access to professional careers found ‘clearly disadvantage those from less affluent backgrounds who cannot afford to work for free for any length of time – they are a barrier to fair access and indeed, to better social mobility.’ Parliament should reflect society as a whole – opening up opportunities to all is vital in ensuring that people from all backgrounds have fair access to a career in politics.
My advice to others that want to work in Parliament would be to be confident, if you don’t know how to do something, don’t shy away from it, ask a lot of questions, seek advice and give it a go. If you want something enough, go for it – do not let anything hold you back.
….and here’s what Ellen said about W4MP:
“W4MP is an incredibly useful resource and I found it invaluable when applying for my placement. For those of us who do not already have friends or relatives working at Parliament, it helps to level the playing field somewhat – so thank you.”
Thanks Ellen and Good Luck in your new job!