What school leaver training programmes are there in public service?

What school leaver training programmes are there in public service?
Find out about training schemes for school leavers with public service employers such as local councils, the Civil Service, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Jobs in public service are so varied that there are plenty of opportunities for school leavers. The wide-ranging nature of the work means that careers in this area are relatively open to applicants who haven’t been to university. In some areas candidates who have not got degrees are eligible to apply for the same vacancies as graduates, particularly if they have gained relevant experience since leaving school.

You can find out more about your options from our advice on jobs and employers in public service.

The Civil Service apprenticeship schemes

If you’re interested in securing an entry-level Civil Service job, you can apply via the Civil Service jobs website. You may then be able to gain training, work towards qualifications and develop your career within the Civil Service.

The Civil Service also offers two apprenticeship schemes:

Civil Service fast track apprenticeship scheme: you’ll work towards a level 4 qualification, which is the next stage after A levels or equivalent. You can choose from five options: business administration, commercial, cyber security, digital and technology, and finance. After you’ve finished your programme you can apply to the Civil Service’s internal Fast Stream or for departmental talent programmes. You need five GCSEs at grade A to C, including English and maths. Applicants to the digital and technology and cyber security schemes will also need two A levels in a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering or maths).

Operational delivery apprenticeship: you’ll work towards a level 3 qualification – the same level as A levels – in operational delivery. Your role could involve processing driving licence applications, giving people welfare or pensions advice or supporting victims and witnesses.

Other apprenticeship schemes with national organisations in the public sector include the National Audit Office apprenticeship scheme, which leads to qualification as a chartered accountant but does not include a degree. The Met Office IT trainee scheme is open to non-graduates who have a genuine enthusiasm for technology and want to build a career in IT. It includes placements in areas such as programming, infrastructure, web design, software testing and IT security.

Training schemes for school leavers in local government

There is an established national training scheme for graduates wishing to work in local government – the National Graduate Development Programme (ngdp) – but there is not currently an equivalent programme for school leavers. Individual local councils offer apprenticeships at different levels and some offer schemes suitable for school leavers who want professional training. For example, Kent County Council runs an accountancy trainee scheme aimed at recent school leavers with at least two A levels and GCSE English and maths at grade B or above. The scheme lasts for six years and includes training for professional accountancy qualifications.

Generally speaking, local government employers are committed to developing their staff and may be keen to recruit from schools in their area. While your local council may not offer a formal school leaver programme for applicants with A levels, it could offer access to training opportunities that will help you develop the career you want.

School leaver jobs and apprenticeships with MI5, MI6 and GCHQ

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ offer some training schemes for school leavers with A levels and you are also eligible to apply for a range of positions as a non-graduate with relevant expertise and skills.

The technical apprenticeship scheme, run jointly by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, is a two-year higher apprenticeship programme that leads to a foundation degree. A foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of a full honours degree and typically focuses on a particular job or profession.

Around two-thirds of the first year of the technical apprenticeship scheme is taken up with classroom-based training, mainly at GCHQ. During the second year, recruits spend about a third of their time in the classroom and the rest on placements with MI5, MI6 or GCHQ. You need three A levels or equivalent at A to C to apply, including at least two in science, technology or maths-related subjects.

Other opportunities for school leavers with GCHQ, MI5 and MI6

School leavers can also apply for a range of other roles with MI5, including the following types of jobs: administration assistant, English language analyst, security officer and driver. If you’re interested in a career in intelligence a degree is not the only way in, but you won’t be eligible as soon as you leave school: you can apply for MI5’s intelligence officer development programme if you are a graduate or if you have been working full-time for as long as it would have taken you to complete a degree.

GCHQ runs a six-week summer school focusing on technology and the internet. It's open to applicants who have at least two A levels at grade A to C in any subject and who are interested in problem solving and curious about the latest gadgets.

MI6 launched a recruitment campaign to coincide with the launch of the most recent James Bond film, Spectre, that invited applicants to ‘explore the human side of global intelligence’. The aim was to recruit candidates with good people skills from a range of backgrounds – and that doesn’t just mean those who have gone to university.

Some MI6 roles are open only to graduates but many specialisms accept applications from non-graduates who have developed their expertise in other ways. For example, you can apply for Mandarin Chinese language specialist positions whether you’ve learned the language through growing up in a multilingual family or by studying Mandarin at university. Software support roles are open to those who have developed their skills through a vocational course as well as to graduates.

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