I completed the University Vacation Employment Program (UVEP) in January-March 2013 and I was then accepted into the 2014 Graduate Development Program (GDP). I chose Infrastructure because I liked the opportunity work on a mix of policy, program and regulation in both the domestic and international spheres. I also liked the career progression offered by the Graduate Program and the friendly, high-performance work culture I had encountered during my UVEP placement in the Airports branch of the Department’s Aviation and Airports division.
During my graduate year I rotated through the Indian Ocean Territories policy section, the Office of Transport Security’s International Engagement and Capacity-Building projects team and the Trade and Aviation Market Policy section in Aviation Industry Policy branch. I returned to Trade and Aviation Market Policy for my final placement on conclusion of the GDP. My role is to lead the section's policy work on aviation consumer protection, liability and insurance issues, and the aviation aspects of international trade agreements. I also do some coordination work to provide input from the Department on trade issues that crop up at international organizations like the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which are relevant to the portfolio.
In this role, I enjoy the opportunity to contribute to international developments in trade and consumer protection, and to develop my policy skills while learning more about a fascinating industry which is an essential mode of transport for a huge, fairly isolated country like Australia. Particular highlights have been attending the Aviation Law Association of Australia and New Zealand conference in August 2015, observing air services negotiations between Australia and the Philippines, and working with DFAT to coordinate the Department’s input into the 2015 WTO Trade Policy Review of Australia.
The greatest challenge so far has been advancing from an APS 3 to an APS 5 at the end of the graduate program. The grad cohort completed in-house training in project management, strategic thinking, time management and public speaking among other courses. We also undertook a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration, which developed our policy and public administration conceptual skills. This helped with the transition but it was still a huge learning curve. Another challenge was organizing the Industry Tour during the GDP, which involved meeting with eight stakeholders over the course of a week in Gladstone and Brisbane, Queensland. After meeting with other stakeholders back in Canberra, the group then wrote a 5000-word report and presented our report’s findings to the entire Department at the GDP graduation ceremony.
I’d recommend that prospective grads apply to Infrastructure if they are keen to fast-track their career and get a broad range of experience in core government skills like program management, policy analysis and regulatory compliance. The graduate program was also good for the mix of skills it helped graduates develop, such as budget management, project management and stakeholder engagement skills.