Quick march for graduates

The public sector is offering fast-track career progression.
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The Independent Online

"Fast-track" has become a buzz-word among public sector employers. Anxious to get their share of student talent, employers from the civil service to the police force are offering revamped schemes to tempt the best new recruits.

"Fast-track" has become a buzz-word among public sector employers. Anxious to get their share of student talent, employers from the civil service to the police force are offering revamped schemes to tempt the best new recruits.

Front-runners for change are local governments. Eleanor Gasse is a recruitment consultant for the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP), a programme designed specifically to attract promising graduates into local authorities. "It's a relatively new programme," she says. "This scheme recruits graduates into the sector with the view to them taking senior management positions within eight to 10 years. It used to be up to individual councils to recruit their own candidates, so if a graduate wanted to apply they would have to pick the council they were interested in and apply individually. The new programme creates a central entry point for graduates. It's a two-year fixed contract, and the aim of this is for graduates to have made themselves indispensable to their department after that period. We're looking to give graduates a range of different experiences across different departments, and in addition to this, we also pay for them to take a postgraduate diploma in management at the Warwick Business School."

Matt Hibbard started the scheme last year. "The NGDP seemed a very ambitious programme and the inclusion of the post-grad diploma was very attractive," he says. "Perhaps the most fundamental appeal was the knowledge that I'd be exposed to such varied roles and services as well as enjoying interaction with some of the most senior figures in the authority. The flip side, however, is that you may run into people who have been in the organisation a long time and resent the new kid overtaking them. With the NGDP you obviously have to put in the hours to get the work done to the highest standard. Remuneration responds accordingly but I'd rather have my weekends and late evenings free than a bit more cash."

The police force have also stepped up their graduate appeal, with a fast-track scheme to speed graduates through the ranks. Sally Farrow, who works for the Essex Police Recruitment Centre, says: "The graduate market is a rich picking ground for us, and one we hope to capture with this scheme. The Higher Potential Development (HPD) scheme considers applications from any serving officer - not just graduates. Also, now every applicant must have served two years as a constable."

The selection process is fairly intensive and favours candidates with strong leadership abilities. If officers successfully navigate the three-day selection process, they can expect one to two years' training in areas such as law, self-defence and community awareness. After this, officers take their sergeant's exams, which gives them immediate promotion if they pass. HPD can result in rapid career progression. Rebekah Sutcliffe is now a police inspector for the Greater Manchester Police Force. "I was going to join the force anyway, so the chance for a fast-track scheme was an added bonus. I think I work best under pressure, and I certainly got provided plenty of that!" she says.

One more established fast-track scheme is "Fast Stream", offered by the civil service. This programme looks at graduates with a 2:2 or above, and subjects them to tough interviews and tests. A similar model is the NHS fast-track management scheme.

The public sector has worked hard to offer recruitment programmes comparable to those of the private sector, and, in the words of Matt Hibbard, it can offer that all-important X-factor: "Graduates will be making a difference."

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