Greg Hobbs: How the civil service's Fast Track apprenticeship scheme is opening doors

Written by Greg Hobbs on 22 February 2017 in Opinion

As the civil service Fast Track apprenticeship programme opens for a new round of applications, the Cabinet Office's deputy director of early talent Greg Hobbs explains how the scheme can offer a springboard into a variety of government careers – and introduces two apprentices who've benefited from it

In February this year, our second cohort of Fast Track apprentices graduated. This was a proud moment for all involved and a reminder that the programme is going from strength to strength. The number of apprentices recruited into the civil service has grown year-on-year since 2013 when the scheme was launched. We now offer 750 apprenticeship places a year compared to 100 apprenticeships in 2013.

More broadly, apprenticeships remain a top priority, and this government has committed to create 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020. In the civil service we are leading by example and have committed to 30,000+ apprenticeship starts by 2020.

Apprenticeships offer a range of benefits to both the apprentices and the organisations that provide them, and this is particularly true of the civil service Fast Track. Our programme offers a springboard into a government career and the opportunity to work in a range of professions. Five apprenticeship routes are offered through Fast Track, including business, digital and technology, project delivery, commercial and finance. The Fast Track apprenticeship programme is a fantastic opportunity, with most roles only requiring five GCSEs to join.

Fast Stream "harder to coach for" after social mobility shake-up, says scheme's head
Civil service social mobility: meet the people trying to smash Whitehall's "class ceiling"
Senior civil servants quizzed on whether parents owned home in social mobility drive

The scheme is designed to attract talented people into the civil service from as diverse a pool as possible, so that our workplace reflects the public we serve. Fast Track provides apprentices with a permanent job, a competitive salary, and the chance to work on some of the most rewarding challenges facing Britain today. From education, health and public safety to border control and cyber security, there is something in the civil service for everyone, with opportunities right across the UK.

We provide a huge amount of support and develop our apprentices throughout the two-year apprenticeship. On the way, apprentices gain skills in problem-solving, teamwork, planning and organisation – all essential transferable skills and experience that a young person needs as they start their career.

On successful completion of the scheme, apprentices are also eligible to apply for the Fast Stream, our flagship graduate programme, with experience in the civil service replacing the need for a degree. The progression from Fast Track to Fast Stream provides a real alternative to university for our apprentices.

After successfully completing the level 4 apprenticeship, apprentices become a permanent employee of the civil service and can apply internally for roles encompassing the breadth of the civil service. We believe that Fast Track is changing people’s perceptions about apprenticeships and the civil service. It presents a unique opportunity to earn and learn. We are passionate about developing people from all backgrounds to achieve their full potential.

Meet the apprentices

Elyssia Dunmore, 21

After starting university, Elyssia Dunmore, 21, from Halifax, realised it wasn’t for her, and left in search of an apprenticeship. The Fast Track  appealed to Elyssia because she wanted to build a career and gain a level 4 business administration qualification, equivalent to a first year university degree, while earning a competitive salary. 

Elyssia now works for the fraud and error service at the Department for Work and Pensions in Leeds, where her day-to-day role includes compiling and drafting responses to freedom of information requests, parliamentary questions and ministerial correspondence on behalf of the department.

Elyssia says she enjoys her role: “I like the fact that I have been treated equally since I began working in the department. The work has been challenging and high-level, not things typically associated with being an apprentice.” She is an advocate of the scheme, telling people that “there is always opportunity for progression” within the civil service.

Elyssia has advice for students considering the scheme. She says: “Research the different types of courses offered to see which suits you best; it’s a two-year commitment so it’s important to study a course that interests you.”

A typical day in Elyssia’s role: “I arrive at work about 8am, log in and check the correspondence inbox to see if the fraud and error service has received any parliamentary questions (PQs.) These are treated with high priority as the deadlines can be as short as 24 hours. If there is a PQ, then work begins sourcing information, drafting the response and getting senior civil servant sign-off before the deadline. If there are no PQs I will carry on with the drafting of other correspondence.

“At the moment, I’m also training a new member of staff in the team, and I also help to monitor the social media accounts for the Fast Track apprenticeship programme, sometimes posting Snapchat pictures showing the work I do and helping to answer any questions received via the Facebook page.”

Meet the apprentices: David Edwards, 23

David Edwards, 23, from Cardiff, was offered a place to study for a computer forensics degree at the University of South Wales, but decided it wasn’t right for him got a part-time job at the Marriott hotel in Cardiff. Interested in digital and social media, David took it upon himself to develop the hotel leisure club’s social media presence, making it far more digitally active.

Realising he had a flair for digital, David decided he should develop his career in this direction. He came across the civil service Fast Track apprenticeship scheme online. Seeing the breadth of options available, he applied and was offered a position in Chepstow, working in business support for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

David’s manager very quickly noticed he was digitally aware and encouraged him to apply for a role in Cardiff working in the social media team for DWP. Now he coordinates the social media for 17 Job Centres across Wales. David works on videos for the whole district, designing posters, hosting job fairs and is even responsible for the design of an entirely new intranet site. He is also studying for a business administration HNC qualification.

David’s advice for others who are interested in applying to the scheme is to be ambitious. “You can get as much as you want out of this apprenticeship. It’s easy to get bogged down with work but you have to grab all the opportunities you can. Being ambitious helps you gain valuable experience and further your career.”

You can visit the Fast Track pages on for more information about the different schemes, the eligibility requirements and information on the application process. Applications are open until 3 April 2017. Find out more about the programme in our digital brochure.


About the author

Greg Hobbs is deputy director of Fast Stream and Early Talent in the civil service. Those interested in applying for Fast Track can visit for more information about the different schemes, the eligibility requirements and information on the application process, or read the Cabinet Office's digital brochure. Applications are open until 3 April 2017

Share this page

Further reading in our policy hubs

Add new comment

Contact the author

The contact details for the Civil Service World editorial team are available on our About Us page.

Related Articles

Related Sponsored Articles

A radical re-think for public sector transformation
2 November 2015

With the ‘low-hanging fruit’ exhausted, the public sector must approach new government saving...

Successful partnerships: working effectively with central government
26 August 2014

TCS is keen to contribute to the topic of successful partnerships between the public and private...