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You’re hired – a successful week for the Civil Service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Apprenticeships, Civil Service Reform
Sir Bob with Conor O'Connor and Kemet Hawthorn Pink, two Civil Service Fast Track Apprentices
Sir Bob with Conor Smyth and Kemet Hawthorn Pink, two of the Fast Track Apprentices

Thank you for all your comments on my last blog, which has had a huge response. Directors-General and Permanent Secretaries meet at the end of the week and I’ll be sharing my reflections next week, so be sure to visit.
One of the strong bits of feedback is the need to recognise and celebrate what we do well, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share a couple of really great examples of how the Civil Service is modernising and becoming more innovative.

Cutting Red Tape

First of all, on Tuesday, you might have heard about the Prime Minister’s announcement on unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. In less than 3 years, civil servants have sourced over 30,000 suggestions from the public and businesses on the regulations which make their lives unnecessarily harder. From this, the Prime Minister has announced over 3,000 will be scrapped or changed, resulting in over £850 million savings every year to business (as well as savings to the public purse).

This is a terrific example of how the Civil Service can make a real difference for businesses and people across the country. In particular, it shows us what can be achieved by working in an open and collaborative way across departments and with the public – led by a joint Cabinet Office/BIS team and at least 23 or so other departments and government agencies.

You're hired!

Also on Tuesday applications opened for the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme. Last year we welcomed over 100 apprentices to the Civil Service, on the first scheme of its kind, for the second year we will double the numbers to 200. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and I hosted several apprentices for lunch last week to hear about they are finding life in the Civil Service.

Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office, and Sir Bob Kerslake meet Fast Track Apprentices
Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office, and Sir Bob Kerslake meet new Fast Track Apprentices

It won’t surprise regular readers to know that they find the IT challenging – when I asked what most surprised them about the Civil Service the first answer I got was “that you still run Windows XP”! Well, the good news is that yesterday we announced that we’re looking at open source software, to see how we can save money and improve the technology across the organisation.

But they also shared their reflections on how welcoming the organisation has been to them, how stimulating the work is and how diverse the opportunities are. These young people, from a range of areas and backgrounds, are delivering services for the public and Ministers – from leading teams in HM Courts Service to supporting me and Sir Jeremy Heywood in our private office.

These are just two examples of the many ways in which the Civil Service is modernising. We’ve a long way to go, but change is happening for the better and as one tweeter said to me this week “more please”!

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Related content:

Blog post Technology at least as good as people have at home

Blog post Civil Service Reform- the year ahead

Blog post Hearing your concerns

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  1. Comment by Andrew P posted on

    With the closure of offices, early exit scemes and devolving work to private companies can someone tell me why we are recruiting apprentices into the Civil Service? What will the long term future hold for them? If it's something to be proud of why so few?

    • Replies to Andrew P>

      Comment by Andrew P posted on

      I was clearly having a senior moment that one's occasionally allowed after 40 years in the Civil Service. It should of course read "schemes".

      • Replies to Andrew P>

        Comment by Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme Team posted on

        Andrew P:
        The Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme is designed to identify high calibre apprentices, who are capable of becoming the civil service’s future leaders. The scheme supports the Civil Service Reform Plan by developing and managing future talent, helping to ensure the Civil Service is in line with policy for the wider economy and demonstrating that the Civil Service is playing its part in providing high quality opportunities for young people.
        The second cohort of the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme will offer double the number of places offered in the first cohort. The scheme is being developed and expanded in stages to ensure that as it gets bigger the quality of the offer is maintained - this can’t be done instantly.

  2. Comment by Andrew Tolfree posted on

    Excellent news again with the Fast Stream applications and good luck to all involved - as someone who failed on my first attempt having reached the the Assessment Day stage (Grr!) I can see that there is a clear need for people who can deal with data in an efficient, rapid and evidential way. This skill is most certainly needed in any large organisation especially a government where reaction to events demands such a skill set.

    I would like to raise what I believe is another equal business need, which I feel is not sought or tested in the civil service fast stream or otherwise. The civil service concentrates on fast development of quick thinkers, but not on equal development for detailed and thorough workers who are required for accurate data analysis or legal enforcement either case by case basis or for long-term planning.
    There is no "fast-stream" equivilent for people with this skill set and, while these people may be utilised on an ad hoc basis, but I propose that a fast-stream style programme is created to identify and develop people with such a skillset in exactly the same way as both skills are needed.

    Both skills are just as valid and both require recognition.

  3. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Sir Bob,
    about your last post (252 replies so far), you respond here with:
    "One of the strong bits of feedback is the need to recognise and celebrate what we do well..."

    Did I miss a post? This wasn't in a large quantity of replies. The main points I could identify were woeful IT, lack of resources, shocking appraisal systems, dying T&Cs and abysmal senior management.

    Please, stop spinning.

  4. Comment by Andrew Tolfree posted on

    Please can people other than those called Andrew leave comments - this is beginning to look like a very undiverse workforce.

  5. Comment by John posted on

    "More please"......
    Well i'm glad you have had one positive tweet Sir Bob.
    Unfortunately ignoring the negatives does not make them, or the problems go away.
    Totally agree with Andrew.

  6. Comment by David S posted on

    Why is the appretinceship restricted to those in the 18 - 21 age bracket?

    I - and I'm sure others - would love to be able to have the opportunity to undergo a Level 4 programme and get paid an EO wage for it.

    As it stands I find myself languishing in a lower grade with the only real option available to me at the moment to be completing another NVQ3 (I'm on my second now). However, even once this is done it won't matter, as the department I'm in (DVLA) don't care about qualifications when it comes to progression - even if they're funding them - they just care that you can hit specific buzz words in relation to vague competencies at interview.

    Please can Fast Stream be extended to ALL staff in future? Or at least give existing staff an alternative programme to follow so they don't remain in the career doldrums for the next X number of years (or take their Civil Service funded qualifications elsewhere...).

    • Replies to David S>

      Comment by Ayath Ullah posted on

      Hi David,

      1) To answer your first question:
      "The civil service is aiming to ensure that its workforce reflects the society which we serve in all aspects of diversity. Therefore applications are welcome from young people aged 18 – 21, in line with section 158 of the Equality Act 2010; this means that positive action is being taken as this age group is currently under-represented in the civil service workforce."

      2) Have you had a chance to look at the Civil Service jobs website? There are several EO vacancies on there. Most of which do not require specific academic qualifications.

      3) The Fast Stream is open to ALL staff:
      "As long as you meet our nationality and immigration requirements, to join most Fast Stream schemes all you need is a second-class degree in any subject. There is no age limit and it doesn't matter how long ago you graduated."

      "The way to the top is open to every civil servant. But in the Fast Stream your development will be much more focused and benefit from the defined path described below. You'll apply alongside, and at the same time as, external candidates, and the selection process will be exactly the same, except that you do not need any academic qualification to be eligible. If you do not have a degree, you'll only be able to apply for the Central Departments and TiB options."

      I hope this answers your questions and the very best of luck with it all!

      Many thanks,
      Ayath (HMRC)

      • Replies to Ayath Ullah>

        Comment by David S posted on


        Thank you for your reply.

        1) I'm not really arguing against the fact that this particular age group is under-represented within the civil service and needs to be addressed. More so that why aren't there more similar schemes operating/being advertised for existing civil servants who wish to take a similar approach to career development?

        2) I have, yes. Plenty in Cardiff and Newport, however: being based in Swansea the daily commute would eradicate any financial gain and - in fact - make me worse off financially. Moving to Cardiff comes with a significant increase in the cost of living which would also make me financially worse off (before even factoring in moving costs). Being the sole income provider in a household with a young baby means both are out of reach for me. This is largely irrelevant to my particular gripe anyway, as it's not solely to do with job availability in my area but more to do with development opportunities such as the apprenticeship scheme.

        3) "All you need is a second class degree..." This makes it sound like almost everyone had the money to go to univerisity or could afford to now. The only affordable way to undertake a degree for most people in my department would be if the employer paid for it, which they won't - and have said so - due to financial constraints as a result of the current economic climate. I have considered Fast Stream, it sounds brilliant, but again it is out of my - and many others' - reach.

        I apologise if this sounds like I'm trying to find reasons to NOT take your advice under consideration, but they are options I've already looked at in great detail. It is just disappointing to read about these schemes which would be ideal for both my colleagues and I but are either: 1) based exclusively in England (usually London) and/or 2) targeted at very specific groups (e.g. 18-21 year olds).

        • Replies to David S>

          Comment by Ayath Ullah posted on

          Hi David,

          3) Just to clarify that the Generalist Fast Stream & TiB Stream is open to exisitng civil servants and there are no academic requirements.
          More info here:

          I'm keen to learn more about your situation; is it possible you could email me?

          In the meantime I will do some research for you around what programmes are available and get back to you (or hopefully put you in touch with the people who'd know more.)

          Ayath (HMRC)

  7. Comment by Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme Team posted on

    Andrew Tolfree, David S:
    This blog entry focuses on the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme aimed at 18-21year old non-graduates. This is a different scheme to the Fast Stream, which is a graduate entry scheme.
    The recruitment and selection process for the Fast Track is looking to identify high calibre, strong all-rounders. The assessment process is designed to test a range of competencies. This year we are extending the Scheme to also offer apprenticeships specialising in finance and in IT. The range of professions within the Civil Service more widely means that different skill sets are also catered for elsewhere outside of schemes like the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme and the Fast Stream.

  8. Comment by Noel 2 posted on

    I find it interesting to read your comment about the Prime Minister wanting to cut unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. My experience has been that bureaucracy in my department has exploded exponentially with an enormous amount of time now being spent on justifying any decisions to an increasing number of unknown managers, many of whom have no knowledge or experience of my job.

    A lot of feedback about promotion on your blogs has commented on the belief that the way to get on is to include the current buzz words that sift and interview panels are looking for. Thus we end up with more cloned senior managers who have little interest in their staff or the public we are supposed to be serving.

  9. Comment by Siobhain posted on

    I am 22 years old and would love such an opportunity. I cannot apply for the graduate scheme - something else I would consider - as I do not hold a degree.

    I began studying for a degree, but after a serious problem at university and a lack of support from the uni and the police, I no longer felt safe to continue my studies. My grades were badly effected so I did not transfer credits to a course elsewhere. I now cannot afford to restart or finish off my degree.

    I think it is great that 18-21 are being given the opportunities to do apprenticeships however I feel the 22-25 age bracket are forgotten about. I am struggling to get a job I believe I am capable of doing and would thoroughly enjoy simply because I do not hold a degree or in this case, I am too old.

    Perhaps you can suggest other ways I can get involved in similar schemes at the civil service?