Inside the Ministry of Defence: Pearson College London Industry Day

Paloma Shakouri

By Paloma Shakouri, Second Year, BSc (Hons) Business & Enterprise.

On Friday 19th February, the students of Pearson College London embarked on an Industry Day like no other. Completely different to what we had experienced before, we were to be entering our first public sector organisation; the Ministry of Defence.

Phillip Oliver, the Deputy Head, Future Head Office Project at UK Ministry of Defence opened the event with a welcoming introduction. He outlined that by the end of the event we will have gained an insight into government, what people do in defence, why they are required and the range of potential careers within the Ministry of Defence.

He explained how the main building of the MoD has been the Centre of Defence since the 1960s and works to “bring together the central management of defence”. Phillip then addressed us directly, describing young people as “future employees of the public (and private) sector” and the MoD want to be an attractive employer.

Next to speak was Andy Gillman MBE, MoD Outreach Programme Director, who has been a member of the civil service for an impressive 38 and a half years.

He explained the history of the building, dating back to when it was owned by Cardinal Wolsey. We were interested to learn that the reason that the area is called Whitehall is due to the white stone bricks of the buildings that we had been admiring on our approach.

Ministry of Defense Industry Day

Following on from Andy; Sam Griffiths, the Private Secretary to Minister of the Reserves, started by outlining the role of MPs and ministers and what her job is specifically. She explained how her job can vary from ultra macro strategy to ‘unpacking’ comments from the public. Part of her role includes viewing action and expenditure from the perspective of the members of the public and advising the Minister in order to "find the balance between doing the right thing for society, development and the future and spending resources in the most efficient way."

It was clear from the way Sam spoke about her job that she is very passionate about it. She explained how it is important to be able to have multiple viewpoints and perspectives as she regularly debates with the Minister in order to come to a well-rounded solution that enables them "to do the best and deliver manifesto commitments".

Sam also explained how she is responsible for managing the Minister’s diaries and commitments, an incredibly complex task as it can change every 15 minutes; ensuring that he is at the right place at the right time is of upmost importance and must be done properly. Sam emphasised that her job is "incredibly rewarding, but requires a lot of personal resilience."

Ministry of Defense Industry Day

Sam and Phillip then opened the questions to the floor:

How do you deal with difficult ethical decisions?
Formally the MoD has a Civil Service Code and a Ministerial code, which cover ethics, including what can and cannot be spent on. The first option, if possible, is to talk to people and try to change their views. This normally deals with any ethical dilemmas, but in serious cases (which it is important to note that they are very rare), the issue would be escalated and put in writing to be taken further.

Does the EU and the UN work closely with the MoD?
We were told they have meetings together. In order to work to be aligned in order to “be a force for good”

After the Question & Answer session, it was time for the first team challenge. 

We were asked the question: if you ran the MoD, what would you do to make the organisation somewhere people would want to come and work? In answer to the question we were to deliver a two-minute pitch, whilst also being judged on the clarity of delivery, audience engagement and our understanding of the content.

Ministry of Defense Industry Day

After our break for lunch, it was time for the eagerly anticipated Crisis Management Activity, led by Andy. 

We were informed that violence and unrest had unfolded in the (fictional) Chiswan province in the South Eastern country of Dacan, a former UK colony and a member of the Commonwealth. This was a response to the arrest of the leaders of the Chiswan Independence party. Understandably, residents were fleeing their homes trying to reach safety. As a result, we were told that the nearby border of Mawan and the airport had closed. 

Knowing the country was on the edge of a humanitarian crisis, we were then given half an hour within our teams to determine a plan in order to restore order and ensure the safety of the Chiswan citizens. Assigning the following roles within our group; Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Defence, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Secretary of State for International Development, Home Secretary and the United Nations; we were to present our ideas in the form of a five-minute press conference. After which we were to receive questions from the ‘press’ (students in the audience). I was delighted to take on the role of Prime Minister and thoroughly enjoyed getting into character!

On completion of the crisis management activity, we were delighted to be presented with Ministry of Defence certificates recognising our achievement and the skills developed throughout
the day.

I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to enter such an important organisation, with such a warm welcome. Furthermore, having experienced what we did during the industry day, I am proud that we have the Ministry of Defence protecting our country. 

I would like to say a huge thank to the Ministry of Defence and Pearson College London for organising such an incredible and insightful industry day. 

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