The civil service has topped an influential list of British employers taking on "elite" apprentices.
Higher and degree apprenticeships grant apprentices the chance to combine work with studying for a high level qualification, including degrees at bachelor's or master's level.
The Civil Service's Fast Track Apprenticeship programme – brought in in 2013 – offers a level 4 higher apprenticeship alongside permanent employment at Executive Officer Level. Apprentices on the scheme are able to apply to join the full Fast Stream – usually reserved for traditional university graduates – at the end of the two-year programme.
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The latest Times Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships shows that the civil service took on 564 recruits to the scheme in 2015, almost 250 more than the next employer in the list, consultancy PWC. KPMG ranked third with 227 recruits in 2015, with the army taking on 150.
The civil service is now aiming to take on around 750 new higher apprentices a year, a figure which would put the number of new entrants through this route on a par with Whitehall's graduate intake.
The drive to widen access to the so-called "elite apprenticeships" comes alongside moves, put to out to consultation this week, to require all public sector organisations employing 250 or more staff to meet a new, annual target for apprenticeships starts based on the size of their workforce.