Government removes generalist track from graduate leaders programme

The civil service’s Fast Stream initiative for recruiting future senior officials – for which digital, data and technology has been the biggest specialism – is to focus entirely on specific professions

Government’s flagship graduate programme – a major source of future Whitehall digital leaders – has been revamped, with the generalist pathway scrapped and replaced by two new profession-specific schemes.

The Civil Service Fast Stream, which re-opens for 2024 applications next week, now has 16 schemes – up from 15 last year – including two new pathways: operational delivery and government policy.

The changes mean all Fast Stream schemes will now be aligned to a distinct civil service profession.

Explaining the reasoning for the changes, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “While the vast majority of roles in the generalist scheme covered policy and operational roles, we are reforming the Fast Stream to ensure it continues to rival the best graduate schemes available. This change allows the Fast Stream to continue to be adaptable to the needs of both individual fast streamers and government, and provide the right balance between technical expertise and leadership and management capability.”

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Until now, the generalist track has been by far the biggest contributor to the Fast Stream, accounting for almost 40% of the programme’s annual intake of 1,000-plus applicants. The only specialisms to reach 100 annual recruits in recent years are the sections dedicated to project and digital, data and technology.

The Cabinet Office confirmed this week that, following the shake-up, it is still aiming for science, technology, engineering and mathematics grads to make up half of all fast streamers across all schemes in its 2024 cohort.

The new operational-delivery scheme “offers an unparalleled experience of making a real difference by leading through others to make government policies, strategies and plans a reality”, according to the Fast Stream website.

Fast streamers on the government policy scheme “will work at the heart of the civil service” and will “design, develop and propose appropriate courses of action to help meet key government priorities, ministerial objectives, and positively impact citizen’s lives”, the website says.

It also says fast streamers on the scheme will “work closely with operational-delivery colleagues to monitor and adapt policies over time”.

Applications for the 2024 Fast Stream open at noon on 12 October and close at the same time on 9 November.

Tevye Markson

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