Working for the GES and the varied and exciting opportunities available.
For a flavour of what you can do as a government economist , check out these great mini career stories:
In my final year of university, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career. Despite a brief belief that I, like my peers, wanted to be an investment banker, I realised I wanted to do something that served the wider British public rather than the shareholders of a company. My tutor pointed me in the direction of the GES Fast Stream, the Bank of England, think tanks, and charities. I did research into the various sectors and decided that the GES Fast Stream was my preferred choice. It offered me the opportunity to apply everything I learned in my economics degree to everyday policy problems/solutions. I was impressed by the variety of work that was on offer, the emphasis put on development, and the level of responsibility that Fast Streamers were given. I think the best part of working as a government economist is also the most daunting, which is the level of responsibility Fast Streamers are given. In my first post as an economist, I led on the economic assessment of £500m worth of government capital spending, with my line manager providing support if I needed it. I was also entrusted to lead on my teams contribution to Spending Review 15, while other colleagues were on leave. While I was initially anxious about the level of responsibility given, I found the chance to be the lead economist on these projects helped develop my analytical and soft skills.
I’m currently in my first role at the Department for Transport working on rail demand forecasting. This is a technical post which requires using excel and specialist rail software and I have attended training courses to help develop my skills. What I like about the job is the constant learning and development opportunities and that every day presents unique challenges. The thing I enjoy most about my career in the GES is that I am given a lot of responsibility in my job and my colleagues always take my opinion into account. I also get the opportunity to help out others with their work, getting exposure to different areas that are outside my remit. I will be rotating in October and my aim is to move department so that I can gain more experience of different working environments and policy areas. In the long term I am interested in the opportunity to take a year out and study for a Masters, and also doing a secondment at a consultancy firm.
A great thing about working in the GES is the choice of a very wide range of types of economics jobs, and the ability to build a portfolio career that covers a host of different topics. For example, I have been able to work on labour markets, private pensions, business support and emerging technology – something that would be very hard to replicate in the private sector. There is also social benefit built in to all of the work you do as a civil servant, which is very satisfying. Also, you get to have exciting experiences like sitting on the floor of the House of Commons to support a debate, or being invited to No 10 for a meeting.
I recently joined the Government Economic Service (GES) through the provisional economist scheme and I am currently based at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Since joining I have passed the Fast Stream Assessment Centre and Economic Assessment Centre to become a permanent Assistant Economist. The Fast Stream process is not as bad as it seems once you get to grips with the process and I have found that the current Economists within Civil Service are always happy to help applicants pass. Once you have joined the GES there is a real sense of fulfilment in a community that supports its employees’ development and enthusiasm. My managers and other superiors have always been supportive of this and have been great mentors to me in the short time that I have been here. Working in the GES is flexible as you have the opportunity to work in different departments and job roles which most interest you. I have worked with analysts who produce some of the ONS’ key statistics, Thinktanks which produce in-depth analysis on UK sectors and also engaged with individuals across government. Currently I am working on developing analysis which will help financial corporations understand the UK financial sector using experimental data and also undertaking international comparisons with other EU countries. Working at the ONS has made me a more confident and knowledgeable individual who has a real sense of pride in working for the GES. I look forward to my future in Economics working here in Government.
The GES really interested me because it provides a unique opportunity to influence public policy at the heart of government. Having studied economics at university, I was really keen to be able to apply the economic principles and concepts that I learnt at university to help provide solutions to social issues. In fact, in my UCAS personal statement, I declared that my aim in pursuing economics in higher education was to “shape government policy for the better”. Having graduated last year, my first job was working as an energy markets analyst at an investment bank. However I found the role rather unfulfilling (with little application of economics) and knew it was only a matter of time before I would fulfil my ambition of working in government. Now working as an Assistant Economist in the Civil Service, I can safely say that I’m ticking many more boxes in what I want to achieve in my career. The GES is the country’s largest employer of economics graduates and the sheer size allows for an impressive variety of roles and exciting rotation options. I am currently working on climate change policy at BEIS, but I definitely want to dip my toes into education and healthcare policy at some point in the future. With the GES, all this is possible!
“I studied at Warwick and spent my summers working at one of the big accountancy firms in the audit department. Whilst I learned a lot, I really wanted to find a job that would allow me to put my economics training into practice, so I decided to apply for the civil service. I picked the Department for Transport primarily because it felt (from the outside!) like a policy area where the impacts are very visible and long-lasting.
I initially started on the fast stream graduate programme, racking up a range of experiences in four different roles and getting funding for a part-time masters. After four years I graduated from the scheme, becoming an Economic Advisor. I’ve been doing that for three years. Currently I’m focused on advising on the Value for Money of rail infrastructure projects – developing analysis to support decision making on things like new rail lines and electrification.
In my second year I was posted to the Department for Communities and Local Government, in part of a team overhauling the housing subsidy scheme, supporting councils to make more effective decision-making on their housing stock. There were months of preparation, then on 28 March 2012 we watched the switch over, with billions of pounds transferring between central Government and local authorities.
Over 7 years with DfT I’ve grown to love transport economic appraisal. It’s really interesting - I’ve built my expertise in skills like forecasting rail demand, and measuring the value people put on having faster, less-congested journeys.
It’s a great place to be an economist – you’ve got a wealth of data to draw on and analyse, plus real scope to undertake or commission analysis in new areas. Your colleagues will always play a big role in how much you enjoy a job and within DfT there is a really strong analytical community and my colleagues have been incredibly supportive. That’s a big plus of my current role and all the previous jobs I have enjoyed.
Talk to the manager of the post before applying, to get a better idea of what it’s like. Try before you buy – look out for intern opportunities – I know DfT offers them via the government economic service. Think about applying for a graduate scheme, like at DfT, where you get the chance to be posted to a range of teams, that way you’ll get to know what you really like.”
The GES was particularly appealing because it gave me a chance to use the skills I had learnt at university and apply them to the real world. I wasn’t interested in going into finance and was attracted to the public sector because it felt like I would be doing something worthwhile. I like thinking about problems and solving them as an economist (something that I didn’t even realise until I started at the GES). The career development and training that is offered to economists is also really good. I started as a graduate economist intern and was in this role for a year. With the support of my manager and team, I went on to apply for the Fast Stream and have been an Assistant Economist for around 6 months.
“The three things I value most about being a part of the GES are:
The daily relevance of what I work on – it’s in the news, it’s part of government policy, it shapes the UK’s position in the world, etc. The work I do and issues I work on feel useful, relevant and valuable;
There is an incredible (perhaps impossible!) array of really interesting jobs/work that I can access and do, all essentially under one employer. Even within one department such as the Treasury or the ONS, there are so many interesting, relevant roles and issues to work on. I have just moved to DEFRA and am working in the international trade team, which is providing evidence on and developing a strategy for the UK’s future trade relationships in food and agriculture post-Brexit. There are still so many interesting, exciting jobs I would love to do in government, including working in a minister’s office, working as an economist in an embassy, analysis and research in the House of Commons and too many others!
Working in government, and especially as an economist, makes a difference to people’s lives, to policy and to the UK’s position in the world. I’m not just hitting targets for sales of something or boosting a profit line – I’m making a difference to people’s lives, even if that’s a couple of steps removed from front-line contact.”
Published: 17 May 2017