Personnel Today Awards 2019: Civil Service takes Graduate Scheme of the Year accolade

Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent accept their Graduate Scheme of the Year trophy at the 2019 Awards.

Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent was named Graduate Scheme of the Year at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards. Judges commended the scheme for not resting on its laurels and taking decisive action to improve diversity. We look at the Civil Service’s winning entry and explore the other schemes that made it onto our shortlist.


Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent (FSET)

The Civil Service Fast Stream is the government’s flagship graduate programme, providing a pipeline of future leaders into the Civil Service. As well as its established graduate intake, it spans school leavers and diversity internships. Across 15 schemes, FSET offers exclusive opportunities to around 2,500 individuals to work at the heart of government.

Although the Civil Service has made considerable progress in improving the diversity of its intake, it wanted to improve its performance on recruiting those from ethnic minorities and from diverse social backgrounds. Feedback revealed that the leadership development module of the scheme left room for improvement, and FSET felt it needed to review its approach.

As a result, FSET has adapted its processes in line with the 2016 Bridge Group social mobility recommendations, has redesigned the Fast Stream selection process to improve diversity outcomes, and increased the diversity of its assessors. In addition, it has expanded diversity internships as a recruitment pipeline, updated its target university list to reflect a more diverse selection of institutions, and focused selection on new success profile criteria.

On the training side, it has removed outdated courses and overhauled a number of modules. There is greater flexibility in terms of when staff can take the courses to fit around their current placement. A revamped leadership module completes the new-look curriculum. Applications across diversity categories for its graduate programme have increased, as have appointments. FSET was ranked in the top 10 in the 2018 UK Social Mobility Index. It has also improved diversity in other departments, with almost 800 unsuccessful candidates gaining placements elsewhere in government. The leadership module has improved understanding for nine in 10 participants.


Energus – Nucleargraduates

Nucleargraduates was established by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2008 to bring together employers to attract the next generation of graduates into the sector, and is now run by Energus. Decommissioning and new build projects suffer severe skills shortages and need to attract skilled graduates to fill that gap.

Its graduate programme has 11 sponsors and works with more than 80 secondment hosts both in the UK and internationally. While many graduate development programmes follow a standard procedure of rotating recruits around departments, no two graduates have the same programme on this scheme and each is challenged to facilitate their own development. They can opt to do secondments across the industry and university modules are delivered by Cumbria and Manchester Universities.

The ‘Footprints’ element of the Nucleargraduates scheme encourages participants to develop their corporate social responsibility. This includes schools outreach on STEM issues, taking part in a ministerial debate, partnering with small businesses and working with local charities. The average completion rate for the programme is 98.2%, and 94% of graduates go on to secure a substantive role at one of the organisations. Energus and the sponsoring organisations behind Nucleargraduates feel the programme provides graduates with both the technical and behavioural skills required to thrive in the nuclear sector.

Galliard Homes

Galliard is a property developer with an annual turnover of more than £300 million. There are 700 employees and around 40 projects under development, so the company is experiencing swift growth. This means there is a strong focus on its talent management strategies, including its 12-month graduate programme, Elevate.

The scheme is tailored to the interests of each graduate and their aspirations. They are assigned a business mentor and HR buddy, and have quarterly meetings with the CEO. They are encouraged to take part in volunteering and fundraising events as part of the company’s responsible business strategy. Selection is based on 15 targeted universities, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Candidates attend a two-day assessment centre where they spend 24 hours with the HR team and recruitment managers.

Once they have been offered a place on Elevate, onboarding is very important. Graduates are sent postcards from Galliard right up to start date, as well as goodie boxes. Their first week is spent learning the ‘Galliard Way’, and six months in they attend a ‘bootcamp’ event learning skills such as communication, negotiation and influencing. At nine months they attend an external six-week secondment with one of the company’s suppliers.

Hurley Palmer Flatt Group

Hurley Palmer Flatt is an engineering consultancy. Since 2014 the company has run its Graduate and Training Engineering Solutions (GATES), bringing on board a total of 37 graduates to date.

The programme aims to provide a full and thorough grounding within building services, as well as introducing other divisions within the group, over the course of four years. The programme is self-owned, but each graduate is assigned a mentor. HR and a technical scheme mentor meet with each graduate every quarter to assess their competence and discuss an overview of their progress in the previous period.

In 2017, the training budget was increased by 60%, which meant the company could continue to sponsor a PhD, regulatory training, three part-time degrees and a Master’s degree. Soft skills training is also an important part of the learning offer. In 2016, HPF introduced a ‘gifted and talented’ framework to develop and accelerate high potential staff. Thirty per cent of staff on the scheme have been promoted and another eight came on board this year.


IMI is a specialist engineering company that designs, manufactures and services highly engineered products that control the precise movement of fluids. It employs around 11,000 people worldwide, has manufacturing facilities in more than 20 countries and operates a global service network. In 2014 the CEO launched a five-year strategy to grow the business, realigning the graduate programme accordingly.

The programme is global, recruiting graduates into countries where IMI experiences high growth and in line with developments in the product pipeline and manufacturing capabilities. Between 2015 to 2018, IMI recruited 120 graduates across 15 countries. The scheme develops graduates in four key areas: research and development, operations, project management and commercial awareness. They are assigned to real, business-critical projects, and have the opportunity to undertake an international placement. A two-week induction ensures graduates form a supportive network, and each receives a senior mentor from within their division.

The experience graduates gain on the programme means they are more ‘work ready’ when they complete the scheme, progressing to roles as design engineers, manufacturing engineers and sales engineers as well as roles in project and supply chain management. Furthermore, targeted recruitment has ensured greater gender diversity – around 35% of the 2019 intake were female graduates.


MBDA produces missiles and missile systems that provide the armed forces with cutting-edge defence capability. The UK business is expanding, recruiting over 500 people in 2018 and employing more than 3,500 employees today. The company has an order book of €6 billion but also faces a large number of employees leaving due to retirement in the next five to 10 years.

Investment in the graduate scheme means that every year, MBDA can bring around 75 recruits into roles rather than recruiting experienced hires, saving an estimated £175,000 a year. The programmes across engineering, operations and business last two or three years, combining structured work placements with core technical and professional skills training. Line managers provide on the job training and regular feedback at end of placement reviews.

All graduates attend a week-long residential course. They attend university careers fairs and act as STEM ambassadors. The programme includes a resilience workshop to help graduates deal with future challenges inside and outside the workplace. The programme has helped MBDA rebalance its ageing demographic profile, and boasts a 64% retention rate of current and ex-graduates over the past 15 years, with many progressing into management roles.

Ten10 Solutions

Ten10 is a software engineering company. It found it difficult to find the right candidates – people who had strong technical capabilities but also solid client-facing skills. In 2013 it launched a two-year graduate scheme known as the ‘Academy’, but found that many STEM graduates’ knowledge from university was already out of date in the commercial market. It also found that many competitor schemes did not guarantee a role after training, offer any compensation on completion of the training, or accommodation for their recruits.

The company decided to focus its search more on soft skills and people with an “organic technical aptitude”, who had a clear passion for technology and would easily learn. The Academy covers a range of topics such as agile development, testing, engineering and stakeholder management. Trainers are industry professionals with 10 to 15 years’ experience and courses are tailored according to market needs.

The Academy contributes almost 20% of the company’s revenue, and this is expected to increase to 30% in the 2019 financial year. It has consistently been voted in the Top 100 companies for graduates and enables Ten10 to react quickly to changes in the industry. Associate director J Woch says of the programme: “The training provided to the junior consultants is second to none, they are able to join various technical-focused projects with great success, embed into existing teams and add value immediately.”

Unipart Rail

In 2013, Unipart Rail identified a number of succession planning challenges that – if not resolved – could mean strategic objectives were not met. The company aimed to double profits through organic growth, global expansion and potential acquisitions. Like many employers in the rail industry, there is an ageing workforce, risking a drain on experience and knowledge as people retired.

At the same time, the company faced a reduced talent pool, a lack of new entrants into STEM subjects, and a lack of female and BAME candidates. It decided to introduce a graduate development programme that would build a pipeline of home-grown leaders for the future. The programme has a modular approach where graduates engage in a number of different projects across divisions, including digital initiatives, CSR activities and customer meetings. Learning objectives are set in each rotational placement so graduates achieve the basic skills and competencies required for that area. They also attend quarterly meetings to gauge feedback on their progress.

When they complete the scheme, they are appointed into agreed suitable roles. Unipart Rail says the scheme has allowed it to “grow beautiful souls in a professional business culture, by teaching them an array of skills which are needed to support and develop them within their career”. There are now 16 graduates working across the division.

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