Talented school- and college-leavers are being given the same opportunity as graduates to compete for civil service jobs, with the expansion of its apprenticeship programme.
The government has announced that it is doubling the number of places on its fast-track apprenticeship scheme to 400 next year, making it one of the largest of its kind.
The scheme, for which applications rose this year by 30 per cent, parallels the existing and highly regarded civil service graduate programme. Launched in 2013, it offers 18- to 21-year-olds the opportunity to earn as they learn. Participants in the two-year programme train on the job in one of 16 government departments in seven regions of the country. They take on executive officer roles with responsibilities such as developing business policy in Sheffield, helping people into work in Birmingham or dealing with ministers in Whitehall.
At the end of the programme, the apprentices will have the opportunity to apply for permanent civil service jobs. The government now wants to increase the number of places available each year to 500.
Cabinet minister Francis Maude said the initiative was part of the government's long-term reform of the civil service.
"Like any big organisation, its success depends on its people," he said. "It already employs some of Britain's brightest, but our recruitment must attract more of the very best regardless of their background."