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A Skilled Civil Service: Reforming the Fast Stream

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Modern Civil Service, Skilled, Skilled Civil Service

A Fast Stream poster

The Fast Stream has long been the Civil Service’s flagship emerging talent development programme. It rivals the best graduate programmes in the UK, currently sitting in the number two spot of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Every year around 1,000 new recruits are welcomed onto the Fast Stream where they are enabled and empowered to build the skills, knowledge and networks needed to thrive as effective leaders, managers and civil servants. 

Offering access to roles in almost every government department and across 15 specialist schemes, the Fast Stream opens up a huge range of opportunities for graduates and existing civil servants. It accelerates careers, developing talented, high-potential people to become the leaders and managers of tomorrow. Most importantly, the work they do supports the government to implement its policies effectively, on behalf of communities across the UK. 

So, when the Civil Service already has a globally recognised programme, why change things?

The approach to reform

In 2020, the Fast Stream and Emerging Talent (FSET) team, in the Cabinet Office, started a review of the programme, with a focus on principles of effectiveness, efficiency and relevance. The Declaration on Government Reform (2021) acknowledged the Fast Stream to be “among the best graduate programmes in the world”, it also set the challenge to ensure we were “attracting talent from the widest range of disciplines and locations.”

The reform of the Fast Stream is vital to ensure it is reflective of both current and future strategic workforce requirements, is equipping future leaders and managers with the skills and knowledge to adapt and deliver in a changing world, and enables the government to deliver better outcomes for citizens.

FSET consulted widely: across departments and professions, with current fast streamers and alumni, with external talent providers and with colleagues across the Civil Service delivering other talent programmes.

They reviewed all elements of the Fast Stream: the attraction and selection methods, the operational delivery model, the training and development offer, all the way through to the on-scheme assessment approach and the alumni offer. 

This was done while considering the role the Fast Stream can play in relation to wider government priorities: Modernisation and Reform, Places for Growth, and growing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills in the Civil Service, to name but a few.

Photo of fast stream members
Fast Streamers at the 2023 Fast Stream Base Camp event

Fast Stream reform: from design to delivery

FSET are now poised to deliver on the reform ambitions. These include:

  • Alignment with a profession: from 2024 all Fast Stream schemes will be aligned to a Civil Service profession. This provides each profession with an opportunity to create a strong pipeline of talent that meets their future needs in terms of technical skills, breadth of understanding and leadership and management experience. All Fast Streamers will experience a precise training offer that is relevant to their scheme. This means the former Generalist Fast Stream will evolve into two discrete but closely interconnected schemes, Government Policy and Operational Delivery.
  • Universal foundation training: the 2024 design will support higher standards of core training with the introduction of a universal, foundational training offer for all Fast Streamers, regardless of scheme. This will equip Fast Streamers with the underpinning knowledge and skills required to operate across a broad range of roles before focusing on developing leadership, management and specialist skills.
  • Locations: recognising the geography of Fast Streamers to be an asset, and the ambitions of the Places for Growth programme, FSET are working closely with departments and professions to balance the location of postings. Being on the Fast Stream does not mean working in London. In fact, many Fast Stream roles are already based outside the capital and the team is running three pilots to test the feasibility of delivering a full Fast Stream experience within single regions or sites. These pilots are being run at the Darlington Economic Campus, in the Yorkshire region and in the West Midlands.
  • Increasing STEM skills: the Fast Stream welcomes applications from people of all backgrounds, and this includes all career and academic experiences. But to deliver on the government’s priorities and meet future workforce needs, the Fast Stream has an important role in increasing the number of civil servants with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. This will help the government in diversifying its thinking around key policy decisions, developing innovative solutions to challenges, and advancing understanding in science and technology policy areas. The Fast Stream has an ambition to increase hires with a STEM degree qualification to 50% (across all schemes), which was exceeded in 2023. The ambition will continue for 2024.
  • Fast Streamer experience: FSET will maintain a focus on continuous improvement of the Fast Streamer experience through the use of digital tools, automation, data and analytics.

Alex Edmondson, Deputy Director for FSET says “We are fiercely proud of our existing Fast Stream programme, and were delighted to recently welcome the incoming 2023 cohort. But we can never rest on our laurels and reputation, and through realising our ambitions for Fast Stream reform we are confident that the Civil Service Fast Stream will continue to attract and develop brilliant people, with huge potential, from all backgrounds and truly be a place to grow like nowhere else.”

Get involved 

Applications for the Civil Service Fast Stream 2024 are open until midday on 9 November 2023. We encourage applications from all backgrounds, including from existing civil servants.

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  1. Comment by Daisy Donachy posted on

    Is there any way to apply if you miss the deadline still for 2024?!

    • Replies to Daisy Donachy>

      Comment by Modernisation and Reform Unit posted on

      Hi Daisy

      The Fast Stream & Summer Internship Programme (SIP) application window is now closed, so we are not accepting any more applications for this current campaign.

      However, applications for the 2025 Fast Stream will open in October 2024, dates will be released nearer that time. All information regarding the Fast Stream and Eligibility can be found on our website and FAQs page.

      In the meantime please do consider checking out other opportunities on

  2. Comment by Trevor Gilbert posted on

    Can you tell me when the Fast Stream programme first came into being ?

    • Replies to Trevor Gilbert>

      Comment by Modernisation and Reform Unit posted on

      Hi Trevor - the Fast Stream has been a long standing development programme within the Civil Service going back many years. It has undergone various changes over time to respond to the changing needs of public service, including the growth of our specialist scheme options. We continue to evaluate and respond to skills needs, and this is reflected in our Fast Stream 2024 reform.


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