Tynwald has been offering a 12-month parliamentary internship programme since 2014. Arranged by the Clerk of Tynwald’s Office it provides undergraduates with an opportunity to gain training and experience in a wide range of parliamentary functions, procedures and services within the parliamentary office.
Samantha Kenny, 25, completed her one-year internship in August 2018, prior to which she gained a degree in History from the University of Edinburgh then worked in China for two years as an English teacher. She said: ‘I was immediately attracted to the post as I love politics, always wanted to work in a parliament and was looking for a post that would offer variety and help me to develop new skills. The internship has delivered on all counts and was an opportunity of a lifetime. For example, one day I might be meeting visiting parliamentarians and Members of Tynwald, the next taking primary school children on a tour of the Legislative Buildings.
‘From the outset the job was interesting and far more than copying and making tea. I never imagined that so soon after joining I would be given ownership of projects, writing reports for select committees, undertaking research for Members, hosting school tours and becoming involved with a year-long capacity-building programme for Members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly of Pakistan. I even attended a Committee Secretariat Network meeting in Guernsey.
‘The internship programme offers so many opportunities to have real input into the workings of Tynwald. You’re overseen, of course, but you’re able to apply your own experience and intellect. It’s extremely gratifying to know that what you write will make a very real contribution to the work of the committee. And that’s one of the main attractions of the internship: that at a comparatively young age you’re able to have more responsibility than most other jobs offer. At every stage, though, I’ve been so well supported by the Clerks and the rest of the team. Their mentoring has been fantastic - there’s a huge element of trust involved - and I always felt valued.’
As Samantha’s internship progressed she became increasingly involved with committee work, notably drafting a report on the adequacy of nursery place provision. ‘I was very proud to have seen that report through,’ she said, adding: ‘There’s a whole world of committees which few people ever see, and it was a steep learning curve, but hugely rewarding, not least in the skills it gives you and the little bits of random information you learn…which are great for pub quizzes!
‘Then there are opportunities to engage with other jurisdictions and to deal with members of the public on the front desk and every step of the way you’re very much part of the team.
‘In short, if you’re looking for responsibility, want to see your input have a swift and meaningful impact and work in an environment where no two days are ever the same, then I would recommend applying to become a Tynwald parliamentary intern. It’s such a good grounding for whatever future career you pursue. In my case this will be as a House of Lords committee policy analyst.’
As Samantha’s internship drew to a close she said she had many fond memories, not all of which were of draft reports and policy reviews. ‘I was taking a school group on a tour of the Tynwald Chambers and there was this one little girl who said something I’m sure I’ll never forget. She turned to me and said: “This is so much fun. I want to be an MHK.”’
Samantha was the fifth Tynwald parliamentary intern. The first was Amelia Quinn, who is now a trainee advocate at an Isle of Man law practice. Reflecting on her time at Tynwald she said: ‘After finishing university and studying for my professional qualification, the role as parliamentary intern was perfect for bridging the gap between student life and my professional career. It was a year well spent honing my skill set in the variety of work offered which has ultimately been of great benefit to my career.’
Now working as an enterprise executive with the Department for Enterprise Nicola Cowsill interned between August 2015 and June 2016. She said: ‘Looking back on the parliamentary internship, it was definitely a valuable and rewarding experience. The internship gives an understanding of the broad and complex undertakings of a parliament from the ancient proceedings to the modern technology used every day in the parliament. It has shaped my career to some degree, as I had the support and expertise to develop my skill set.’
Charlie Shimmins interned from August to December 2016 before taking up a permanent post with the Cabinet Office in external relations. He said: ‘The five months I spent as an intern were educational and very rewarding. The work was extremely varied and gave me a valuable insight into how Tynwald operates; it also helped me to develop soft skills that I can apply in whatever career I pursue. Everyone was so supportive and I always felt part of the team. It was a privilege to be able to make positive contributions and to be given a level of responsibility I never imagined would be extended to a parliamentary intern.’
Alex McQuarrie, who was an intern in 2017 and is now a qualified history teacher, said: ‘The parliamentary internship at Tynwald is a unique experience that has helped me to grow into a confident and diligent person, and I am constantly feeling the benefit of the skills that I learned in the role. From being a tour guide to an assistant clerk, the experience offered a multitude of interesting and challenging opportunities that has opened so many doors for my future.'
A planned feature of the internship will be a regular annual exchange opportunity with the Parliamentary Assembly of Northern Territory, Australia.
The Clerk of Tynwald’s Office will be inviting internship applications for 2019-2020 in April 2019.
(Photo of Samantha Kenny courtesy of Paul Dougherty, Tynwald Seneschal)