Fast Stream – Inside Info, Part 1

PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is from August 2008. Although some of the information may still be relevant, you should check for more recent information if you are currently applying to the Fast Stream.

On Monday I was lucky enough to go to hear about the Fast Stream and recruitment into the UK Civil Service, so thought I’d give you some insights not covered on their website. As there’s a lot to cover, I’ll do it in two parts.

Fast Streamers in Person

The most inspiring part of the day was hearing from a range of recent Fast Streamers themselves.

  • A Statistician with a PhD in Geographical Information Systems (plus a period as a post-doc). He originally came into the Civil Service as a GIS specialist (ie making maps) but as there are only about 10 of them in these roles, he decided he’d have a greater variety of career opportunities if he applied for the Fast Stream Statistician stream (you can do this as an internal applicant). He still uses his specialist information but across a range of departments, and has had periods in some high profile units, such as the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, working on how do you get more houses built in the country (not that anyone’s going to buy them now …)
  • A Graduate Fast Streamer who works in the Home Office. She has also worked on some high profile issues, such as the Asylum Support Process (her first posting) and the issue of dealing with foreign nationals detained at secure hospitals like Broadmoor. These, like many other stories we heard about, mean that you scan the first few pages in the newspapers every morning to see which issues in your patch are getting all the attention today – there’s nowhere to hide if you work in the Home Office.She also had a placement as a policy advisor at Number 10, which meant she didn’t get out of the office much (or at all – and that meant most evenings and weekends as well) but hey, she did get to meet George Clooney. She didn’t say who put himon the guest list but I think we have the evidence here …Gorgeous George and Sarah "Look at what I have to put up with being married to the PM" Brown
  • A “Technology In Business” Fast Streamer who, after doing a Masters in International Business, realised he had a passion for applying IT for public service while working in a local authority. He’s not a techie, but works on trying to make our government IT systems work together, no small task as most of them have been developed over the years as independent systems. He pointed out that the Fast Stream constantly pushes you out of your comfort zone – which is why it’s fun.
  • Another Graduate Fast Streamer who started in teaching, through Teach First, before moving to the Fast Stream, with a quick stopover at a Communications Consultancy, lobbying government, to get a feel for what the other side is like. She was passionate about the privilege of doing the job, making a difference on social policy and having incredible access to senior people. She also pointed out that, coming in through the Fast Stream, you could be a civil servant for 30 years and never do the same job for more than 2 years running.

There were some real personal challenges. You have to be able to deal effectively with work which may conflict with your own beliefs. They suggested the way to cope was to focus on evidence based policy analysis and even if you didn’t personally agree with the government of the day, rationalise your role as working for the UK public who voted for the government in power.

If you think this might be something you could do, then have a look at Part 2 to tell you how to get in.