What does the Civil Service involve?
Working in the Civil Service would see you working directly under the government that is in power, and implementing the policies that the government generates. There are 22 civil service offices located within the government departments at Whitehall, and a further 66 executive organisations around the country whose aims are to serve the citizenry of the nation. Civil servants perform an extensive number of roles across the country, supporting, advising and proactively helping, for example, families, job seekers and the armed forces. They are responsible for the police and judicial systems; for maintaining the education system; for setting the NHS's priorities; and overseeing the management of the national transport networks. Virtually every possible vocation - lawyers, scientists, even veterinarians - is represented at some level within the civil service.
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Why should I apply for a career in the Civil Service?
A career in the civil service certainly offers an extensive range of opportunities for talented individuals. A wide range of responsibilities could be placed on your shoulders, as you carry out your day to day tasks, and knowing that you are carrying out the government's wishes and ensuring the effective maintenance of key public services may all be alluring draws for certain applicants.
Training and Applicants
To be eligible for the civil service you must have British nationality, or dual nationality being one part British. 75% of available roles are open to citizens of the Commonwealth or the EEA. Some jobs will also require security clearance - which ranges from basic background checks to counter-terrorism clearance and developed vetting clearance.
Different jobs will require different qualifications - again, you will need to check this against the particular vacancy that you are applying for. For the Fast Stream you will need a minimum 2:2 degree or equivalent from a recognised university. Should you apply, you undergo one of the most rigorous assessments in the country, success in which will lead to an appointment within the Civil Service. See here for further details on the Fast Stream.
There is an "in-service" Fast Stream programme for existing permanent civil servants. This allows the service to recruit potential talent from within its own ranks. The process is significantly different in the earlier stages and much more straight-forward. Each department will have its own internal processes for selecting candidates that it feels have the potential to succeed on the Fast Stream, upon which they will recommend individuals for the final Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC). Cabinet Office will sift those applications and forward those successful to the FSAC. Everyone who joins the Fast Stream has to do an FSAC - which lasts a whole day. (Sometimes longer). Some posts - such as Parliamentary Clerks, Government Economic Service and the Diplomatic Service have further assessments that follow this.
Applicants should have excellent team working and communication skills.
What opportunities are available within the sector?
Not including consultants and agency workers, there are just under 500,000 civil servants across the country and beyond. There are opportunities available for both school leavers and for graduates alike. These range from back office administrators all the way through to working in policy development in Whitehall to working in an embassy in the middle of a war zone. There are also specialist posts for scientists, economists, statisticians, engineers, health workers and more.
There are several routes of entry. The most well-known among university students is the Fast Stream, an accelerated development scheme designed for graduates. However, in many national and regional jobs newspapers you are likely to find vacancies from organisations that form part of the civil service.
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