I have long been a believer that the best way to learn anything – a job role, a new skill – is to do so hands on. It does not matter how talented you are at any given task if you don’t have the opportunity to practice it. Without practice you cannot improve. Similarly it does not matter how passionate you are in any given role. Without guidance it can be difficult to visualise how to focus that passion.
So when it comes to learning the ropes of a career, there is no better way of doing so in my opinion than taking on an internship. I can vouch for the transformative power of an internship – as that is how I got into politics in the first instance.
By working in MSPs offices while I was a student, I learned how the political process worked in Holyrood. I learned what politicians do in their day to day working lives, from the glamourous to the mundane. I had passion for every aspect of politics – from the advocacy role an MSP can play in the lives of his or her constituents to the power of a speech delivered with great skill that can shape legislation.
I am a big believer in paying forward the hands-up other people have given me on my way. That is why I have set aside part of my staffing budget towards paid internships in my role as MP. So far I have had a number of interns in my office, mostly university students or graduates, who have not only been able to add experience to their CV, but have undertaken some really valuable research work for me.
However, as someone who has always campaigned for youth activism in politics, I opened an essay competition when I was elected and invited pupils to take up the opportunity of working as a paid intern in my constituency office. The essays I had requested were to be researched and written on political subjects that interested the pupils.
The response was overwhelming – a true credit to our area and a real marker of the intelligence we have in our young population. It is inspiring to know that so many young learners in our schools are switched on to the issues that affect the wider world and are interested in how they personally can make a difference. It will be my privilege as their employer to give them the chance to build on their talents through practice, and I hope to show them that their passion, if channelled correctly, can lead to them making a huge positive impact in the world around them.