School leavers are being given the same opportunity as university graduates to compete for fast-track Civil Service jobs, with the expansion of a successful apprenticeship programme.
Today ministers announced a further 200 places are being opened up on the Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme, which gives 18-21-year-olds the chance to work at the heart of government.
The apprentices will take part in a two-year programme, during which they will gain on-the-job training in one of 16 government departments in seven regions of the country.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said that after the two years, the apprentices will be in a “strong position” to progress within the Civil Service, and will be eligible to apply for the fast stream like all other civil servants.
The spokesperson said that there was no difference between the high-flying university graduates often recruited to the service and school-leavers taking up apprenticeships.
“The scheme is designed to attract talented and enthusiastic young people whose only difference from their graduate counterparts is having chosen a different route into employment," he said. "These young individuals are of high calibre and capable of becoming the Civil Service’s future leaders.”
The scheme was first launched last year with 100 apprentices, all of whom are still taking part.
Now a further 200 permanent executive-officer posts will be available to school leavers in September.
The eventual aim is to increase the places available to 500, so the programme matches the graduate fast-stream scheme for university leavers.
Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, said: “The scheme is attracting a new generation of school leavers who are choosing not to take the higher education route to employment but have the talent and commitment to succeed in one of the diverse careers offered by the Civil Service.”
Apprentice Kemet Hawthorne Pink joined the scheme last year instead of taking up an offer to study a degree in international politics.
He is now private office assistant to Sir Bob and Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.
He told TES he did not feel like he had missed out on any opportunities by turning down the chance to go to university.
“I was put in at a B1 [executive officer] grade and given lots of responsibility from the start,” he said.
“It’s been a steep learning curve, but it’s been challenging and exciting at the same time. My level of ambition is being matched by where I am.”
Recruitment to the programme begins on 28 January and runs until 19 February, with the new cohort starting work in September 2014.
Anyone wishing to apply should go to www.gov.uk/civil-service-apprenticeships