The Civil Service is hoping to narrow its technical skills gap via its Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Fast Stream programme, which recruits graduates and existing civil servants to work across up to six departments over four years, in various UK locations.
The government’s digital and technology skills gap has been widely reported in recent years, with the influential Public Accounts Committee last year labelling it as “serious” and stating that Whitehall probably needed to recruit “thousands” of technical civil servants.
A skills shortage in technical fields was exacerbated in recent years by the government’s tendency to outsource much of its technology capability, leaving a vacuum of skills and knowledge that now needs to be filled as it takes on the challenge of its Transformation Strategy.
Combine this with a prolonged period of austerity, a reputation for a resistance to change and the potential for very public failures, and the government has faced an uphill struggle in attracting talent.
However, the Government Digital Service’s director general, Kevin Cunnington, hopes that the DDaT Fast Stream programme can go some way to fixing this. The government’s Transformation Strategy, which was released late last year, outlined how the Civil Service needed to address DDaT recruitment going forward. For example, it stated that it would encourage talent to the Civil Service by setting up:
- a single set of DDaT job families across central government
- a pay strategy and framework for specialist roles in central government, to address recruitment and retention concerns across government and different parts of government competing with each other for a limited pool of people
- common job descriptions and guidance on how to recruit more effectively for specialist roles
Writing in a blog post this week, Cunnington outlined the importance of the Fast Stream programme to plugging this capability gap. He said:
There’s no doubt that the DDaT Fast Stream is where we’ll see the leaders of the future emerge. As head of the DDaT profession, I’m hugely excited about this scheme.
Our colleagues across departments can be very proud of the steps they have taken to transform and build services that meet the needs of their users.
But we know there is a lot more to do, and to enable that we must continue to build a diverse, innovative workforce. With the challenges of Brexit, security, and improving how we use data, there’s never been a more exciting time to join the Civil Service. Nor more of a crucial time to ensure we recruit the best people possible. The DDaT Fast Stream has an important role to play in this.
Creating a diverse Civil Service
Cunnington’s blog states that candidates don’t have to be from a technical background, as they will learn everything on the job. It adds that a typical placement might include “innovative, large-scale and complex projects in fields like artificial intelligence, cyber security, data analytics and data science, or robotics”.
Candidates could be involved in user research, building web services and creating content for websites. They will also be trained in agile methodologies at the GDS Academy, which was originally set up by the Department for Work and Pensions to train up its Civil Servants, but has since been spun out under GDS’ control to become a central capability.
In our interview with Cunnington last year, he said that he wanted to increase the Academy’s annual training numbers from 3,000 civil servants to 6,000.
Central to the Fast Stream’s ambitions is to recruit a diverse range of candidates. Cunnington explains:
It’s vital that we attract candidates that represent UK society as a whole. This means appealing to diverse candidates across all backgrounds. We’ve made progress in improving who we recruit in this respect, ranking number 12 out of 50 in the Social Mobility Employer Index, published in June 2017.
The index recognises employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace. But we know there’s much more that can, and should, be done. And we’re doing our best to fix it.
Cunnington is urging people to register their interesting early, by emailing the Fast Stream recruiters. You can learn more about DDaT Fast Stream here and applications will open on 14th September 2017.
GDS is hoping that the learning opportunity and the challenges facing the Civil Service at present will attract some of the UK’s top talent. Cunnington said:
The DDaT Fast Stream will help you to develop skills that employers will value, spanning a wide variety of specialisms. The skillset we aim to develop is one that will be useful to you throughout your whole working life. But more than that, it’ll put you in a position to do work that genuinely improves lives. And that’s a tremendously important thing.
Although the Fast Stream is a 4-year commitment, we see it as the first chapter of an exciting long-term career in the modern Civil Service. Thanks to initiatives such as the GDS Academy, which allow you to continuously develop your knowledge and expertise as you progress, there will never be a point where your learning comes to a halt.
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