The Civil Service Fast Stream has jumped from fourth to second place in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers a year after the programme was shaken up in a bid to shed its “white, male and Oxbridge” image.
It is the highest place in the ranking that the Fast Stream has achieved in 16 years, though it has consistently ranked in the top eight employers over the past ten years.
John Manzoni, civil service chief executive, said he was “delighted” at the result, and stressed that there has “perhaps never been a more exciting time to consider a leadership career in the civil service”.
The Fast Stream hopped over supermarket Aldi for the 2017-18 ranking, which slipped into third place despite offering a starting salary of £44,000, compared with the civil service graduate starting salary of £25,000 to £28,000. Aldi only has 100 graduate job vacancies in 2018, while the civil service has 1,000.
Professional services firm PwC has taken the top spot for the past 10 years running.
“The fact that the civil service continues to attract high-quality talent – and from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds – says much for the motivation of young people who want to make a difference and see an opportunity for a fulfilling career in public service,” Manzoni wrote in a civil service blog.
He said applications for the Fast Stream had reached record levels and were “almost double those of the next largest employer”.
This year 1,300 Fast Stream places were filled, 122 of them with candidates already working within the civil service.
“Many of those appointed came through our new purpose-built assessment centre in Newcastle, which was introduced to make us more accessible to a wider demographic,” said Manzoni.
The centre was opened after a 2015 review conducted by the Bridge Group and commissioned by the Cabinet Office found that – with just 4.4% of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds – the graduate programme’s intake was less diverse than the student body at the University of Oxford.
It said the wider civil service was still seen as “white, male and Oxbridge”, and there were “low levels of awareness of the Fast Stream” among graduates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The review made a series of recommendations, including replacing verbal and numerical reasoning tests with online aptitude tests, improving outreach, and conducting assessments outside of London.
Most of the recommendations have now been implemented, Manzoni added.
The Times ranking, now in its nineteenth year, was compiled from interviews with more than 20,000 graduates who left university in 2017 and were asked for their views on which employers offer the best opportunities for graduates.
In a similar ranking compiled by the Guardian, the Civil Service Fast Stream was voted 16th most popular employer for 2017-18, below three other public sector employers – MI6 in fourth place, MI5 in ninth and the NHS in 14th.