https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2014/09/23/civil-service-fast-track-apprenticeship-launch-event/

How my Fast Track apprentices are changing my office

Lin Homer, Permanent Secretary HMRC, working on her laptop with her apprentice Olivia
Lin Homer, Permanent Secretary HMRC, working on her laptop with her apprentice Olivia

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to talk at the Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme Cohort 2 induction event. The Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme was set up last year and aims to attract the best and most talented school leavers, offering them the chance to kick-start their career, as a real alternative to university. Through this scheme apprentices join a range of different departments and have full time roles whilst studying for both NVQ and HNC qualifications. They are encouraged to develop a diverse range of skills and competencies and once successful with their studies will then be able to apply for graduate career opportunities.

I spoke to the new cohort of apprentices about Civil Service Capabilities and Civil Service Reform. I welcomed them onto the scheme and congratulated them for getting through the rigorous selection process. They join the Civil Service at an exciting time. A time when it must continuously adapt and evolve; and apprenticeship schemes such as this offer the Civil Service new skills relevant in today’s world, from digital and information technology to new leadership and management skills. Apprentices are one way that we can positively transform the Civil Service into a more diverse place to work and allow us to develop the capabilities needed to help the government deliver. The scheme is also a great example of how quickly the Civil Service can implement change successfully – two years ago this scheme didn’t even exist and these kinds of jobs would have been more or less unattainable for those apprentices that I met.

I have the benefit of having two apprentices from Cohort One of the scheme currently working in my private office team, Olivia (Deyt-Aysage) and Dominic (Woodward-Lebihan). It has been great for me to see first hand how much Olivia and Dominic are enjoying being apprentices and the opportunities the scheme is affording them, and so I asked them to come with me to the event and Olivia to pen the second half of the blog!

So, it was great to go along with Lin to the induction event and be reminded that that was me only a year ago. Dom and I are both relishing our roles in HMRC and are incredibly enthusiastic about both the scheme and working in the Civil Service. University was an option for us both, but we decided that the opportunities inherent in the scheme outweighed the merits of getting a degree. Examples of the diverse challenges in our current roles, supporting both the Chief Executive and the Lead Non-Executive Director, can include liaising with ministers’ offices and foreign embassies, helping the HMRC Executive Team to modernise with greater use of technology or even drafting a blog for the Cabinet Secretary’s page!

It was great to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, as well as the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and also two apprentices from the first cohort who shared with us their experiences of the past year and their passion for the scheme. Nick Clegg welcomed the apprentices and congratulated them for choosing a “noble calling”. He encouraged them to challenge the way Westminster works today and continue to set an example for future apprentices. Lin, in her speech, emphasised that all Civil Servants should challenge the way we work today and be sure to ask those difficult “why” questions in order for the Civil Service to continuously improve and transform. The new cohort certainly seemed to have taken this message on board already, asking the Deputy Prime Minister why he had not kept his manifesto commitment on tuition fees – a policy decision that had a direct impact on those in the room and their choices. He answered the challenge directly and openly. So, back to Lin!

It is clear to me that Olivia, Dom and all of the apprentices have big ideas and will bring a new energy to the Civil Service. They are bright, enthusiastic and keen to learn, but will need our help and support in their careers and value all of us taking the time to talk to them about our own experiences. It has certainly been valuable to me and my private office to have Olivia and Dom working alongside us and I know they are learning a lot as well as teaching us new things. This kind of knowledge transfer is key in ensuring that the Civil Service remains a great place to work with relevant, future focussed career paths whilst also valuing the corporate memory and experience of those of us who actually remember the 1990s (and earlier!)!

6 comments

  1. Comment by Max posted on

    wow! What a well written and informative blog, love it!

  2. Comment by Mike posted on

    Well done to the new recruits!

  3. Comment by Chrissie posted on

    Not meant as a negative comment, but you make the claim in the headline, then don't explain how your apprentices are changing the office. Examples would be helpful.

  4. Comment by Tom posted on

    Like Chrissie says, I don’t see any actual examples of changes the apprentices brought to the Chairman’s Office.

    If we look at some of the statements made;

    • “They join the Civil Service at an exciting time” – what is exciting about it? It is shrinking in size, staff t&c’s are being eroded and take home pay is the same as 2010.

    • The Civil Service “must continuously adapt and evolve” – the Department that I joined over 20 years ago has been continuously adapting and evolving in that time, but rarely are the changes given time to bed in before they are superseded. There are so many changes going on, that staff are left bewildered by poorly thought out systems and then left struggling to provide the service that the public expect.

    • “New skills relevant in today’s world, from digital and information technology to new leadership and management skills” – I can appreciate that school leavers can bring fresh insight into IT, after all they have been educated in it for at least 14 years, whereas many existing civil servants were dissuaded from using IT for more than what their actual duties required. Additionally, without any clarification, I fail to see what a school leaver can bring in the way of “new leadership and management skills” to someone of Lin Homer’s experience.

    • “A great example of how quickly the Civil Service can implement change successfully” – this is balanced by the numerous changes that have been implemented badly e.g. Caseflow.

    • “The apprentices have big ideas and will bring a new energy to the Civil Service” – when I joined the Civil Service, I had big ideas and new energy, but 20+ years of work place reality have worn that down.

    • “It has certainly been valuable to me and my private office to have Olivia and Dom working alongside us and I know they are learning a lot as well as teaching us new things.” – again some actual examples of the new things have they been teaching you would help?

    Maybe we can now look at the claims made by the apprentices themselves;

    • Their duties “can include liaising with ministers’ offices and foreign embassies, helping the HMRC Executive Team to modernise with greater use of technology or even drafting a blog for the Cabinet Secretary’s page!” – in my job I have to liaise with Finance Directors, lawyers, accountants, senior civil servants etc on complex areas of tax law, but I don’t seem to command the respect and esteem that the apprentices do.

    • “Lin, in her speech, emphasised that all Civil Servants should challenge the way we work today and be sure to ask those difficult 'why' questions in order for the Civil Service to continuously improve and transform.” – if we are encouraged to challenge the way we work, then why have the concerns and suggestions about Departmental systems that I and colleagues have raised, been ignored?

  5. Comment by Tom posted on

    Still no actual examples of how the Fast Track Apprentices are improving Lin Homer's office. What it must be like to work in an area where management speak is seen as acceptable, rather than somewhere that hard results are required. Keep those pigs flying!

  6. Comment by Luke posted on

    But do they actually work, I mean do anything to do with calculating and collecting tax? Or are they all about meetings and focus groups on re-shaping the future and inspiring staff?