Over the 2013-14 summer break, I interned in the Economic Policy group at the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF). Over my three month encounter, I worked with a variety of people on projects mainly across the economic strategy, market design and resources and environment teams. As a passionate economics student with a keen interest in public policy, I always seek experiences to see how economics plays out in the real world, so DTF was an obvious place for me to apply.
My first week began with research and analysis into Australian automotive manufacturing in preparation for the Productivity Commission’s report on the industry. This involved reading current literature and previous reports, as well as crunching through and interpreting ABS data, whilst learning up on data programs like Excel, SuperTable and TableBuilder.
This first week ended with Holden announcing their planned closure, prompting a rush to prepare an interim report to the Treasurer regarding our findings on industry assistance and benefits, as well as risks on employment, growth and skills. We also made preliminary assessments on Toyota’s future, who later in my internship announced their own closure – correlation or causation?
Tip #1: Try to not cripple an industry and wipe out thousands of jobs in your first week.
Notifying my supervisor of my aspirations as an environmental economist rewarded me with the perfect project involving Victoria’s submission on the recently released green paper on Direct Action and the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). My enthusiasm was further recognised in being given the lead on Treasury’s analysis and contribution on the Commonwealth’s new environmental policy.
The opportunity to lead and take ownership of a significant piece of work in an area I am passionate about was definitely the highlight of my DTF experience, in addition to working with and being supported by a team of economists and policy experts. Being afforded the trust, respect and autonomy to have my opinions, thoughts and work heard by senior staff made it particularly gratifying and encouraging.
Tip #2: DTF is involved in a huge range of issues and areas. Let them know what you are especially interested in and they’ll do their best!
I was also given the chance to present our findings and recommendations on the ERF at a PLADS presentation. PLADS – or Professional Learning and Development Series – are regular presentations given by staff throughout DTF. They are a great opportunity to learn about a whole range of issues and see what other areas of the Department have been working on.
Presenting a contentious issue and having to face questions from the deputy secretary, multiple directors and a room full of experienced economists and policy analysts, was another highlight, albeit a slightly more pressured one.
Tip #3: Attend as many PLADS as you can. You’ll learn a lot about DTF and public policy, and it’ll help prepare you for your own presentation.
Economics interns can find themselves in a variety of locations throughout DTF. I was lucky enough to be placed in my first preference, but that did not mean I was completely restricted to my placement. One of my ‘mini-secondments’ included half a day upstairs in the Macroeconomic and Revenue Forecasting (MRF) group, where I completed an Economic Briefing Note (EBN) on CPI inflation.
EBNs are short two-page documents that are sent out to all the economic groups, plus parliamentary staff, in order to provide timely information on new data releases. It’s a fast paced process that involves quickly downloading the relevant data pack the minute it is released, processing, tabulating and graphing the data, and providing any relevant commentary. EBNs are a really good experience at producing very timely, accurate and concise pieces of work on data interpretation. Although there a two rounds of quality assessment, the pressure is on not to send out incorrect information, or even a spelling error, to any of the hundreds of staff who receive the EBN, including the Treasurer and Secretary.
Tip #4: The Economic groups include Economic Policy, Macroeconomic and Revenue Forecasting, Social Policy, and Cost Control and Efficiency. Economic interns can also go to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) and the Essential Services Commission (ESC). Research all of these groups and think about where you would like to go and why.
Tip #5: Definitely talk to your supervisor at attempting an EBN, especially if you aren’t based in the MRF group. Also have a look through each EBN as they enter your inbox, they’re a great way to stay on top of the economy and its indicators.
As an economics student, DTF was not only a great workplace to experience economics and economic theory in a practical setting, but a great place to meet a diverse selection of highly intelligent and driven people who all love economics, including cheesy economic puns. Any cricket fan will also be pleased that discussions on Mitchell Johnson fireballs or Brad Haddin slog sweeps are most certainly not uncommon.
Tip #6: Level 12 has the flat screen for optimal Ashes viewing. Beverages also tend to conveniently appear during Tests on Fridays.
As a pre-Honours student, it was really good to meet and talk to people who had been through the thesis and ‘character building’ year. Whether it was last year, a few years ago, or over a decade ago, everyone is keen to pass on their advice, and help you connect with any network of contacts or advisors they may have.
For anyone interested in economics or public policy, I would highly encourage having a look and applying for internship and graduate programs at DTF.
More information can be found here: http://www.dtf.vic.gov.au/About/Careers/Graduate-opportunities