Retraining current civil servants “fundamental” to Whitehall apprenticeships drive

Cabinet Office document suggests a significant chunk of civil service’s targeted 30,000 apprenticeships will already be employed by government departments

By Jim Dunton

26 Jan 2017

A Cabinet Office strategy document on the civil service’s plans to create 30,000 new apprenticeships over the course of the current parliament has underscored that upskilling existing staff will be a key part of the drive.

The document says that while amending its current recruitment processes will be part of meeting the target, including targeting young people not in education, employment or training, offering new opportunities to current civil servants is a “fundamental part” of Whitehall’s strategy

The civil service’s jobs target comes as part of ministers’ wider goal of creating 3 million new apprenticeships across the private and public sectors by 2020, which was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment in the 2015 General Election.

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Employers with a staff of 250 or more have a duty to offer apprenticeships based on the size of their business, and the civil service has a target of delivering apprenticeship starts at an annual rate of 2.3% of its workforce.

According to the Cabinet Office strategy document, which was published this week and refers to the whole civil service, retraining current staff is one of three main methods of meeting the apprenticeships allocation.

Other main channels include “converting planned external recruitment”, by assessing whether roles that would have been recruited for anyway could be offered as apprenticeships, and “enhancing” current recruitment schemes, such as the Civil Service Fast Track.

The document said Whitehall’s apprentices drive was expected to increase social mobility within the civil service “by opening up jobs without requirements for educational attainment and by offering retraining opportunities” and broadening its regional reach.

But it admitted that the programme would necessitate a “rethink” of existing recruitment practices so that they looked at “potential rather than the finished product” and new reward structures that made the civil service able to attract and retain talent.

Writing a joint foreword to the document, Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer and perm sec John Manzoni said the programme was “not just about achieving numbers” for the government.

"We want to change how we view modern employment routes into the civil service and across the wider economy,” they said.

“By embedding apprenticeships in our people strategies, talent management and career pathways, we can ensure they provide a modern employment offer and viable route into and up through the civil service for both new and existing staff.”

The strategy did not give expected proportions for the three main routes it expected its apprenticeship recruitment to divide into.

While the 30,000 target applies only to England, the Cabinet Office said it was expected that home civil service departments in devolved administration areas would apply the 2.3% annual-starts figure to their apprenticeship programmes.

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