Ensuring our young people get the best opportunities in life has always been one of my priorities. No career choice should be closed off to them.
Yet it is still hard to get into a wide range of ‘establishment’ industries – such as the media, law and financial services. Sadly, there seems to still be a perception that Parliament is also one of those places.
As someone who didn't enter Parliament via a traditional route, I've always thought it important to open up Westminster to those who wouldn't normally be able to find a way in.
It certainly used to be the case that politics was dominated by those who came from upper class families, went to private schools and mixed in the same social circles. Getting a foot in the door in Parliament was down to your well-connected parents putting you in touch with their friends and colleagues.
This has changed over the years and the Labour Party has been key to that. Our party was founded by working people and I am proud to see amongst my colleagues in the House of Commons former miners, teachers, healthcare workers, a postal worker and carers.
It is vital that Parliament more accurately reflects the people it serves, so we can create laws that truly make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.
However, getting onto the first rung on the ladder that leads to a job in politics can be difficult. In the past there was a culture of unpaid internships, where those who had financial support would offer to work for free for MPs. This would then give them the experience they needed to get a permanent job in politics.
This is changing and key to that are schemes such as the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme, which I am proud to lead. The scheme offers paid internships in MPs’ offices to people who would not normally get that kind of opportunity.
It pays the living wage over the nine month placement and provides help and support to prepare the participants for the world of work – particularly in politics. It combines work in Parliament from Monday to Thursday, with training and experience in a range of private and public sector placements as well as working in different departments within the House authorities.
One of the current interns on the scheme said: “Working in Westminster has been an amazing experience. I’ve learnt so much and found working in an MP’s office fascinating. It’s been incredibly helpful in terms of deciding my next steps in life and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
We now have many graduates from the scheme and their feedback has been excellent – with many former participants describing the experience as ‘life changing’. Some graduates have gone on to work with MPs, others have used the scheme as a springboard to roles more widely in Parliament or to secure permanent jobs in the private sector.
The scheme is a great way to open up Parliament and politics to everyone. So if you’ve ever harboured the dream of working in politics, or want to learn more about how Parliament works, then please do consider applying.
Applications for the 2016/17 cohort are now open and close on 17 June.
If you are interested in applying please read the stories of those who are already on it. You can find out more and how to apply at: www.thecreativesociety.co.uk/uncategorized/speakers-scheme/