A modern approach to apprenticeships in the Civil Service

John Manzoni
John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary

Yesterday, the Minister for the Cabinet Office launched the Civil Service Apprenticeship Strategy as part of a wider commitment the Government has made to deliver three million apprenticeships across the economy by 2020.

I’m delighted to say that the Civil Service is at the forefront of this initiative, pledging to deliver at least 30,000 apprenticeships by 2020, annually achieving 2.3% of the workforce as apprenticeship starts in England, with similar levels of growth in the UK Home Civil Service workforce.

So, not only are we embracing this important agenda and setting ourselves an ambitious target, we are leading by example in the wider economy as well – helping to design, develop and deliver a range of apprenticeship standards that are available for the rest of the economy to use. 

This is a huge achievement in and of itself. But I’d like to use most of this blog to talk about why scaling up our Apprenticeship Strategy is so important to our future as an organisation.

Front cover of Civil Apprenticeship Strategy

Last year we published the Civil Service Workforce Plan, which sets out the changes we have to make as an organisation if we are to meet the challenges of our age.

Firstly, we must better reflect the public that we serve, and ensure we are attracting talent to the Civil Service from the widest possible base. In other words, we must be open to people of all social backgrounds, ethnicities and sexualities. That is why we are actively promoting our apprenticeship schemes beyond our traditional recruitment channels to applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds, to those who may have chosen not to go to university, or those not currently in employment, education or training.

Secondly, we have to build career paths that develop breadth of experience and depth of expertise – particularly, as readers of this blog will know, in the areas of commercial, project management and digital. That’s why our apprenticeship schemes are explicitly linked to these priorities, so that we can start to build our talent from the bottom up, and give our apprentices the chance to be involved in some of the most challenging and rewarding work that the Civil Service does.  

And it’s happening already – take Francesca, working on a key supplier relationship in DWP, or Natasha, working in a project management role in the Crown Prosecution Service.

We want to make apprentice stories like theirs part of the typical experience of the workforce, which is why by 2020 we want all Civil Service professions to have an apprenticeship scheme and a clear pathway that will allow the most talented participants to progress right to the top of the Civil Service.

So, apprenticeships are essential to creating the workforce of the future, but they are not just aimed at young people joining the organisation today. Offering our current employees opportunities to refresh or gain new skills is a fundamental part of the strategy, and hence we are developing apprenticeships at a range of levels and professions all across the country – and we’ll publish more details on how to apply for these in due course.

Graphic with legend 'A Brilliant Civil Service'The Apprenticeship Strategy will help us shape a Civil Service where people from all parts of society will want to work and in which they have an equal chance of joining and succeeding. It will help us to build a future generation of Civil Service leaders, equipped with the necessary skills and experience to meet the challenges of our time. In these ways, Civil Service Apprenticeships are a vital part of creating the ‘Brilliant Civil Service’ that we all want to work in.


  1. Carmel Brown

    Good move I suspect. However, there is also a gap in employment at the post-graduate end. For instance in the university where I am a sessional lecturer/tutor, approximately 50% of teaching is provided by sessional staff. A lot of these people could add value to the public service in a part-time capacity while continuing their teaching role.

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    • John Manzoni

      Hi Carmel,

      Many thanks for your comment. I'm pleased that you support this important initiative and our drive to boost apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are one of many entry routes into the Civil Service and we are committed to do all we can to attract and retain people of talent and experience from a wide range of sectors and all walks of life. More broadly, we understand the value of part-time working to both individuals and organisations, and as an equal opportunities employer, the Civil Service positively promotes all forms of flexible working.

      To you and Julie [below] I would add that existing post-graduate routes into the Civil Service include the Fast Stream and direct appointments - see the Civil Service Jobs website - and we are exploring masters-level apprenticeships.

      Apprenticeships can also offer a valid alternative to internships and, from May this year, all employers will be able to offer apprenticeships to candidates who already hold qualifications (including at a higher level), as long as the training allows them to acquire new skills. This will mean even more opportunities for talented people to join us as an apprentice at a variety of levels and in a wide range of professions.

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    • Sean

      It is disappointing to see apprenticeships being used for existing staff and as post graduate job opportunities, rather than providing real work to young people leaving education aged 16-18. From personal experience it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a recent school leaver with good GCSEs to gain an apprenticeship in any part of central or local government. Sadly I suspect very few of the 30,000 apprenticeships mentioned will go to those young people.

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  2. Julie Anderson

    Post graduates need apprenticeships as replacements for internships. Getting experience is vital, but it becomes a Catch 22 to get a foot in the door! It gives the Civil Service an opportunity to encourage, support and give confidence to graduates who have had little job experience. And to spot potential...

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  3. Allyson Keresey

    Is this scheme inclusive for people with special needs/diabilities/limited capacity to work?

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    • Civil Service Human Resources

      Hi Allyson,

      Yes, apprenticeships are a key part of developing an inclusive Civil Service that reflects the society it serves.

      In line with wider Civil Service ambitions, we aspire for apprentices to at least match the economically active population for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME), gender, disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and socio-economic background. We also want to at least halve the gap in engagement scores between disabled and non-disabled apprentices, in line the with the overall Civil Service goal.

      We will develop recruitment processes that are based on an inclusive definition of talent, identifying and attracting people from a range of backgrounds, recognising potential, rather than the finished product.

      To ensure apprenticeships are open to all, there is flexibility for some apprentices to complete the apprenticeship on reduced hours, to align with a variable working pattern, and the length of the apprenticeship can be extended accordingly. Workplace adjustments, such as an extension, can also be agreed where appropriate, to ensure completing an apprenticeship is not impacted by a disability or long-term health condition. Flexible working is available in line with the relevant department's policy and guidance.

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  4. Ian Martin

    A positive and welcome statement.
    It would be even better and more inclusive if apprenticeships were open to those wishing to return to the workforce after raising children. This would assist in representing the population as a whole as it must include a very large number of people.
    As up to date skills and recent experience seem essential for nearly every role today, the mother (for it is mostly women) wishing to return after a break of several years break has little opportunity. Despite past experience they may possess, more and more roles demand higher educational qualifications than a few years ago.
    Retraining would be welcome but Apprenticeships seem targeted at the young.

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  5. Carol

    I think apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity within the civil service. However I think the length of time it takes from being accepted, to starting employment is too long. A family friend got told in August they had the apprenticeship and is still awaiting a start date. Luckily they have weekend employment to keep them going, but others may not be as fortunate.

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  6. Anne

    Employing Apprentices is the way forward. They need to be given quality work and not given office junior/work experience duties. They are intelligent and eager to learn.

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  7. Lucy Tatner

    As a current civil servant I'm really interested in this, it sounds like it will offer opportunities to move into different areas of work and get some new skills. I have a degree but I'm not interested in Fast Stream, but I am interested in developing my skills and exploring the world outside of Operational Delivery which I'm been a part of for most of my career to date. I feel I've got more to offer than my employer is currently making use of.

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  8. Keith Cowell

    When and where will the apprenticeships be advertised

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  9. Anthony

    I applied when the scheme was first announced last November. Only to be informed I was ineligible because I already held a Level 5 Diploma. So I welcome the news that I might be eligible in May 2017. However there needs to be some reward on offer to those completing an apprenticeship either in the form of a pay rise or automatic promotion to the next grade.

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  10. Herbert Anchovy

    Having just completed a Level 6 qualification in Computing/IT, I'm looking for ways to build on what I've learnt by acquiring much-needed cyber security skills within the CS. What cyber security opportunities are there in the CS for those who have a relevant degree but no direct experience?

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  11. Arran

    If you really want to be inclusive -and reflect the diversity within our population - you need to have a programme that is aimed at getting mature people in work not just the young or the privileged who have been to universities.. Our land has far more in the have not's then the haves and mature people needs jobs much more than school leavers -Where is your programme to reflect this John?

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  12. Ben Bond

    I was very encouraged and interested in this development when it was advertised by my department. However, I have personally encountered two snags. Firstly, as a mobile grade Civil Servant currently working in Scotland, the offer of apprenticeships here and in the other devolved administrations is much more limited than in England. Surely, for the UK Civil Service, the playing field should have been levelled before the apprenticeships' programme was rolled out? Secondly, as a graduate, I am not eligible for ANY of the apprenticeships on offer.

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  13. Lee Campbell

    Great idea what about Scotland?

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    • Civil Service Human Resources

      Hi Lee,

      The apprenticeship strategy is intended to apply to the UK Home Civil Service. While the legislative and Civil Service target of 2.3% of the workforce as apprenticeship starts annually is for England only, the Civil Service has an expectation to see similar levels of growth among UK Home civil servants employed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Civil servants working for the Scottish Government and Welsh Government are part of the UK Home Civil Service.

      We are engaging with the Devolved Administrations, as well as UK Government departments that employ UK Home civil servants based in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to ensure that high-quality apprenticeship opportunities are available to all civil servants, regardless of their place of work.

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    I hold a degree and a HND and been in the Department long enough and would like to know when these apprenticeships would be advertised as I have always worked in Operational Delivery. I sometimes feel that my expertise and academic qualifications are wasted here in the Department.

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    • The Blog Team

      Hi Tasneem, Please see the Civil Service HR response to Keith Cowell's similar query above.

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  15. Tammara Glenister

    I am currently working on ESA new claims but have an NVQ level 4 in Accounts, and would really like to go into a finance type role, having taken time out of finance and accounting, whilst my daughter was growing up. She is doing her GCSE's this year. I would really welcome an oppertunity to do this internally. Is there any plan to gather names and details of interested staff ready for May??

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