Civil service Fast Stream gets a shake-up in bid to improve working class representation

Written by Jim Dunton on 29 September 2016 in News
News

Application window opens for 2017 recruitment programme targeting more candidates from working-class backgrounds

Changes to the civil service’s Fast Stream graduate recruitment programme went live today, with new measures aimed at encouraging more applications from graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

A Cabinet Office-commissioned report published in February found just 4% of Fast Stream candidates came from a disadvantaged background compared with 24% of the overall graduate population.

The study, by the Bridge Group, said there were still “low levels of awareness of the Fast Stream amongst lower SEB students”, with the programme seen as both “attractive and intimidating” to students from poorer backgrounds.


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Online aptitude tests for the now-open 2017 process have replaced verbal and numerical reasoning – shown to disadvantage candidates from less wealthy backgrounds – with situational judgement tests. Meanwhile, an assessment day will be offered in Newcastle as an alternative to a Whitehall session.

The Bridge Group's report said the wider civil service was still seen as “white, male and Oxbridge”, that at 18-31 weeks the recruitment process for the Fast Stream was too long, and that the scheme's “geographical focus on London” was deterring candidates from less affluent backgrounds who were less likely to be able to move to the capital.

As well as the changes to the Fast Stream assessment centres, a programme of outreach events will be held at universities and schools across the country focusing on subjects and areas that are under-represented by applications to the civil service.

Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood said the changes would transform the diversity of candidates on the scheme.

“The new Fast Stream application process is a demonstration of our commitment to attracting the most talented people to the civil service, no matter what their background,” he said.

“The Fast Stream offers unrivalled development opportunities to tackle and solve challenges that can improve the lives of millions across the country. It is a graduate scheme like no other.”

The application window is open until November 30.

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Comments

Tiny Tim (not verified)

Submitted on 29 September, 2016 - 13:26
I've found that the Fast Stream tests require access to computers with the latest IT Software which people on low income have problems getting as they are not basic applications and require software purchases. Tests also suggest a quiet uninterrupted place when taking the tests. These are things you don't get in libraries or Internet Cafes. Even with local centres (Newcastle) candidates still have to pay up front for travel, hotels and meals. Without the Bank of Mam and Dad, the up front cost of the interview process stops many from applying. Also after selection the scheme successful candidates are expect to source their own accommodation and work in costly areas such as London, Manchester or Newcastle Upon Tyne which, with Student Loan and other debts make the situation impossible.

Monty

Submitted on 29 September, 2016 - 15:42
"The Civil Service must be representative of the country we serve" is the mantra that is constantly preached at us. And yet if we look at the photo of the 53 "Fast Streamers" we see only 7 white faces. (and I bet they are all posh and Oxbridge!) Oh I do love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

nian (not verified)

Submitted on 30 September, 2016 - 12:41
It is representative of the London based recruitment of Fast Streamers. Those of us who live outside London need to realise that for most movers and shakers in the Civil Service London represents the whole country.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 1 October, 2016 - 15:39
Clearly you're not looking at the photo above. And do remember that only 19% of the UK population is non-white (as of the 2011 census).

Tarquin (not verified)

Submitted on 2 October, 2016 - 17:54
Cool story bro, That's because the photo is of the intake for the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme, along with Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer. I can tell that because the caption shows up when you hover your mouse over the picture. And because I went to an independent school, obvs.

Tarquin (not verified)

Submitted on 2 October, 2016 - 17:56
Cool story bro, That's because the photo is of the intake for the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme, along with Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer. I can tell that because the caption shows up when you hover your mouse over the picture. And because I went to an independent school, obvs.

nian (not verified)

Submitted on 3 October, 2016 - 14:06
Lazy journalism then, allowing two distinct issues to become confused.

Fast Streamer f... (not verified)

Submitted on 30 September, 2016 - 14:24
It is good that attempts are being made at diversifying from lower socio-economic backgrounds, but having seen the list of universities being engaged there is still a bias away from genuine lower SEB areas of the country. Additionally, simply doing outreach to schools and universities discriminates against those who may be less academical - why is there no mention of in service routes? As a FSer from a lower SEB I find that the Departments tend to have a far better balance than the FS and there are a lot of talented people who should be eligible for the benefits that the programme offers. I must confess that before I applied to the scheme I had very little knowledge of the FS and the CS in general so it was neither attractive or intimidating, it simply wasn't on my radar. I had a FT job and was looking for a change of career and stumbled across the scheme by chance - a happy accident. One other observation - lower SEB is harder to define than BAME so care should be taken to not simply use the terms interchangeably as may be suggested from the choice of cover picture - it is always helpful to define the scope of working class. Even the fact that someone was working class may be challenged from them now possessing a degree!

Steph B (not verified)

Submitted on 4 October, 2016 - 15:01
This is all rather marvellous, but why Newcastle? Surely Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester have the biggest catchment areas outside London.

Question (not verified)

Submitted on 4 October, 2016 - 16:31
Why is Oxbridge in the same category as white and male? Discriminating against students from top universities isn't very fair to the students who have worked hard to get in. You might as well say that the civil service is disproportionately educated and hard-working and therefore needs to be more representative of the population as a whole.

Mid-class applicant (not verified)

Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 13:05
Probably due to the fact that, traditionally at least, Oxbridge graduates are generally from higher socio-economic backgrounds - this is the wider perception of the Civil Service that the Bridge Report has found. It doesn’t state anywhere that students from top universities would be discriminated against, just that efforts are being made to better reach out to talented candidates from working-class backgrounds. Surely there’s nothing to get offended about there???

Middle-class FS... (not verified)

Submitted on 6 October, 2016 - 13:03
Probably due to the fact that, traditionally at least, Oxbridge graduates are generally from higher socio-economic backgrounds - this is the wider perception of the Civil Service that the Bridge Report has found. It doesn’t state anywhere that students from top universities would be discriminated against, just that efforts are being made to better reach out to talented candidates from working-class backgrounds. Surely there’s nothing to get offended about there???

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