Better Training, Knowledge and Networks: the New Curriculum and Campus for Government Skills
Published 15 January 2021
Image 1 shows the five different coloured strands of the Curriculum and Campus outlined in this document below, joining into one
Over 450,000 people across the Civil Service work with one shared mission: to look after the interests of our fellow citizens. Wherever we are based, whatever our role, we make people’s lives better. We help the government navigate challenges, make the most of opportunities, and achieve the ambitious agendas set by prime ministers and their cabinets.
Do we have the training, skills, and networks to do this to the best of our capabilities, at a level that justifies our ambitions and the faith the British people put in us? Up to a point. There are gaps in universal administrative core abilities and highly technical expertise, including the Civil Service’s grasp of science and data. The overwhelming message from internal feedback suggests that while good training is happening, you want more of it; you want it targeted to your needs, and you want easier access to it.
The new Curriculum and a Campus for Government Skills that we explore in these pages will be the one-stop shop that helps us all do our job better. They will be an assurance of relevance and quality, the offer of targeted development for each stage of our career, from first day to last.
Civil Service devotees will know that for 150 years and more, it has aspired to the heights of professional excellence. Whenever the state comes under intense strain it flexes in support. Given the particular challenges we face today, it must do so again. During our COVID-19 response, civil servants have drawn deeply on their talents and resilience. Yet, for all the many heroic feats, systemic vulnerabilities have been exposed that we must fix.
The coronavirus highlights a wider truth about the challenges ahead. Politicians cannot easily legislate or regulate their way to a solution for many of them: global climate change, our ageing population, people feeling remote from the government and each other. What is needed – from ministers, advisers and civil servants – is to work closer than ever before with local and central partners in politics, the United Kingdom’s five million public servants, the third sector and private sector, and of course individual citizens. All this to help the country level up and unite; build back better and greener, flourish outside the European Union and leverage advances in technology.
The Curriculum and Campus will ensure we are ready, with a culture of learning and targeted training to nurture and hone our skills, and those of ministers and aides. We will prioritise operational delivery as much as policy design, place a high premium on local and regional networks, and recognise the value of hands-on technical experience. We will learn from what has not worked. In doing all this, we will help the Civil Service attract and nurture even more great people; generate and follow up ingenious ideas from within our ranks and beyond; and secure better outcomes for citizens.
Alex Chisholm, Chief Operating Officer for the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Cabinet Office)
Simon Case, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service
The 5 strands of the Curriculum and Campus for Government Skills
Strand 1: Foundations of Public Administration
Skills and knowledge people can expect when they enter relevant public service roles, and access throughout their career.
Strand 2: Working in Government
A varied menu that supports individuals and teams to do their job well, accessing the knowledge that they need as they build their career, and ‘primers’ for new entrants.
Strand 3: Leading and Managing
Skills, knowledge and networks (through formal programmes, experience, and informal context) to develop current and future managers and leaders.
Strand 4: Specialist Skills
Developing expertise in specialist areas from the moment of entry to a profession to becoming an experienced practitioner or deep expert.
Strand 5: Domain Knowledge (related to a specific area of government)
Sector specific knowledge, experience, history required to work effectively in UK public policy
Section 1: Introducing the new Government Curriculum
Our new Curriculum is organised into five strands, to make it easy for people to review the training options by category, and quickly recognise why each will improve how they do their job. We want every civil servant to ‘pick and mix’ from the five strands. They are deliberately designed to be complementary, helping people master the full spectrum of skills relevant for their role so they will become more confident and capable public administrators.
Through this curriculum civil servants will develop universal aptitude, a broad knowledge both of how government works and how to work in government, as well as a specialism in one or more areas. Over the course of our careers, the training will build up like coats of paint: from entry-level ‘primer’ through the subsequent layering of knowledge, skills and networks, to form the professional, specialist finish we require. There will be functional expertise – accredited as appropriate – alongside structured development of our leaders as managers: combining in superior knowledge that is indeed a mile wide but far more than an inch deep.
As passionate public servants, many of us are drawn initially to the job by a powerful sense of vocation we will, of course, continue to learn as we go. ‘Your day job is your classroom,’ as Chris Morgan, a Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) apprentice, neatly puts it. But additional training is crucial, as staff and managers know. The many reasons why it does not happen include it being seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ – an unjustifiable position; and day-to-day pressure of busy roles – which is more understandable. Neither can be right, however, in a Civil Service that must deliver the best public outcomes. Significantly, Singapore, which now has a ‘best-in-class’ Civil Service, is benefiting from heavy investment in continuous staff training and self-improvement.
Strand 1: Foundations of Public Administration
Key features: Universally available training and knowledge to which every new entrant to the Civil Service at every level is entitled, often as part of an induction or entry programme. Put simply, this training comprises the essential skills that ensure we work effectively as public servants. After taking a Strand 1 course in project management essentials, we can expect to be equipped with the basic skills for managing our work, although not to have been trained to be a professional project manager.
Taught through face-to-face or digital training sessions with supporting resources, Strand 1 gives everyone an equal chance to flourish and develop their career in public administration.
Learn the fundamentals of Public Administration
Examples of Strand 1 training The next stage of cross-government work will determine new learning needs and how to best meet them
Quality of evidence
Basic digital skills suite (Excel, PowerPoint, social media)
The Writing Academy
Data handling & interpretation
Data Masterclass for senior leaders
Running effective meetings
Strand 1 in Practice: The Writing Academy
This programme will teach essential writing skills that all civil servants need, whether their work is to be read by ministers, colleagues or public service colleagues. One element of the Academy has already been piloted – a one day virtual workshop using material drawn up by an ex-Prime Ministerial speechwriter. The session coached participants on how to build an argument, structure a ministerial submission, and capture readers’ attention. One attendee described the workshop as ‘hugely useful – one of the best L&D courses I’ve been on.’ Another said: ‘I came away with very practical and applicable approaches, a different approach to writing, and having cracked a piece of work that was proving very challenging.’ We are exploring how to bring the Academy to more people and cover a wider range of written products.
I would like dedicated training for really basic but fundamental skills like time management, task prioritisation and event planning. Given the huge variety of roles in the Civil Service, generic training can sometimes feel removed from your day-to-day reality. It would be even better if the practice exercises and practical advice within training could be tailored to be directly applicable to my role. Alongside more concrete advice and case studies.
Strand 2: Working in Government
Key features: A comprehensive grounding in the history and structure of government and how it works with the rest of the public sector, and developing the skills and networks required to make practical use of this knowledge tailored by individual or specific role.
Supporting individuals and teams to do their job well
Learn the fundamentals of Working in Government
Examples of Strand 2 training The next stage of cross-government work will determine new learning needs and how to best meet them.
Reviews and inquiries
Propriety and ethics, & the Civil Service code
Machinery of government
The Treasury Green Book
Learning about local government
Introduction to trade policy
Devolution & inter-governmental working
Law for non-legal professionals
Parliament and the legislative process
Science in the civil service
Working with data
Writing business cases
Strand 2 in Practice: Devolution and Intergovernmental Working Workshop
What is devolution? What does it mean for citizens across the United Kingdom? How should civil servants work together across devolved areas? The ability to recognise and describe the different settlements is important for all UK civil servants, particularly when they are developing policy, whichever nation they work in. This three-hour online workshop – face-to-face when circumstances allow – takes knowledge and puts it into practice, showing people how building networks with colleagues in other administrations, for example, achieves better outcomes for them and their ministers. Topics include recognising what is devolved and reserved policy, and the different devolution arrangements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Participants keen on more hands-on networking and skills building experience can sign up to the interchange programme and spend a week shadowing their counterpart in the Scottish and Welsh Governments
While it is available to all civil servants, it is most relevant to people with some knowledge or experience of devolution, or of working with other administrations. The course is currently over-subscribed every time it runs; through the Curriculum we will explore ways to scale up its reach.
Strand 3: Leading and Managing
Key features: Strand 3 programmes will offer relevant practical skills, reflecting the time and focus it takes to reach the threshold standards expected of those in the Civil Service with leadership and management responsibilities – whether they are leaders of small teams or Permanent Secretaries. We want to create a cadre with unrivalled management and leadership skills, who through this training in essential skills develop an instinctive grasp of how, when and where to work with and through one another.
Leaders who, thanks to our investment in them, will have built up banks of knowledge and skills, contacts and networks, techniques and tips to pass down in turn to the next generation. They’ll also have a greater understanding too of what we expect of them in bringing the talent through – whether that’s attending a virtual Base Camp, addressing a Civil Service Leadership Academy (CSLA) event, or both and more.
Moving away from disconnected courses on abstract leadership models, Strand 3 will focus on long-term training and substantive interventions that strengthen specific capabilities.
Learn the fundamentals of Leading and Managing
Examples of Strand 3 training The next stage of cross-government work will determine new learning needs and how to best meet them.
Accelerated development schemes (including Minority Ethnic Talent Association and Disability Empowers Leadership Talent Association):
- Future Leaders Scheme
- Senior Leaders Scheme
- High Potential Development Scheme
- Individual Development Programme
Essential Line Management Training & Advanced Line Management Programme
Service Delivery Academy
Sponsoring Major Projects
CSLA Director Leadership Programme
Leading and Parliament
Senior Civil Servant Open Curriculum
CSLA Director General Leadership Programme
Management Fundamentals: Giving Feedback and Objective Setting
National Leadership Forum
National Leadership Centre Programme
CSLA Deputy Director Leadership Programme
Strand 3: Leading and Managing
Managers at every level benefit from Strand 3; many belong to the Operational Delivery Profession (ODP), the largest in the Civil Service. As a result, ODP will have a vital role in defining the Strand 3 curriculum, joined by senior representatives from the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit (GSCU), Human Resources, and relevant policy areas. The operations of the National Leadership Centre and Civil Service Leadership Academy have been united, to achieve more together, as will selective programmes, to develop pipelines of staff ready to work at more senior grades.
The senior leader programmes will mainly be delivered through the new grouping of the CSLA, the Accelerated Development Schemes (ADS) and the NLC. The last has an external focus, connecting the country’s most senior public service leaders through leadership programmes and peer-learning, and sharing successful approaches to complex societal challenges. Its research and evaluation function will grow to inform all Strand 3 work, designing programmes and events that are based on evidence of what really works in public service leadership, and evaluating them for real-world impact.
The training will galvanise contact between policy and delivery teams, and also build in many opportunities for civil and public servants all around the country to forge networks, recognising their unparalleled value in the form of shared knowledge, skills and insights.
The CSLA and the NLC will also be aligned in partnership roles.
Strand 3 in Practice: Identifying, nurturing & deploying Operational Delivery leaders
Building strong managers and leaders of both people and businesses is at the heart of our ambitions to provide access to better skills, knowledge and networks.
With Operational Delivery professionals making up over half the Civil Service workforce, it is essential that managers and leaders in these roles are equipped with the best available training. There are distinct challenges, however, associated with establishing a diverse pipeline of talented people to take over in Operational Delivery Directors General (or equivalent) roles.
Enter the Service Delivery Academy from the Operational Delivery Profession, a fundamental part of the new curriculum. The Academy runs an accelerated development programme, offers access to qualifications up to Level 8 (Doctorate equivalent) and teaches participants how to manage and lead major government operations for the benefit of the public. Its involvement here will signal a shift in what is available to improve management and leadership in the Civil Service: it will identify, nurture and deploy operational delivery leaders who show Director General potential.
Strand 4: Specialist Skills
Key features: Training by the professions, for the professions, Strand 4 will develop deep expertise in a specialist area such as law, digital, procurement, data analysis, and operational delivery. From the moment of entry to a profession (particularly by those new to government work), to becoming an experienced practitioner or deep expert, a Career Framework – and the related training and development – will support your professional learning. With training often aligned to a professional body, your continuing development may include assessment and accreditation, offering additional assurance that you have the specialist capability to undertake certain roles. This strand is led by the professions and functions of government.
Image 2 shows the different training modules for Commercial accreditation in branches, with the different modules required to reach accreditation
Examples of Strand 4 profession and function training
Commercial L&D Key Services
Functions, like Government Commercial Organisation (GCO), have many building blocks for capability growth.
GCO Bespoke Programmes
- GCO Programme for Accredited Senior Commercial Professional (Accredited ACS+)
- GCO Development Programme for Senior Commercial Professional (ACS+ working towards accreditation)
- GCO Programme for Accredited Commercial Lead (Accredited CL)
- GCO Development Programme for Commercial Lead (CL working towards accreditation)
- Political Insight
- Networking: Building Relationships
- Building Effective Supplier Relationships
- ADC (only open to those working towards accreditation)
- Coaching Skills (open to CLs working towards accreditation)
- Operational Contracts: Finance Training
- Advising, Drafting & Briefing Ministers
- High Impact Communication Skills (only open to ACS+)
Government Science and Engineering profession
The below list shows the approach the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) profession is taking to develop deeper and broader knowledge and expertise and improve its uptake and use across government
GSE ambition by strand
- Increased awareness of science and engineering across government
- Increased demand and better use of science and engineering across government
- Improved professional leadership
- Improved delivery of science and engineering through increased specialist skills
- Strengthening and developing deep specialist knowledge, improving science and engineering capability
Current GSE offer by strand
- Science and Engineering Fast Stream. Induction for CSAs/HoSEPs from 2021. Primer to Futures.
- GSE Policy Roles integrated into policy profession career framework. Futures Advisory Service.
- Capability based pay framework sets standards for GSE SCS. Heads of Horizon Scanning Network. Career framework skills for leadership.
- Career framework and skills assessment linked to development pathways for all GSE job families.
- Science advisor apprenticeship. Systems thinking apprenticeship. Futures toolkit
Future GSE offer
- Development of induction to profession for all GSE. Induction for senior officials/ministers on use of science and evidence
- Science 101 for policy makers, generalists. Loans and secondments for scientists to other professions
- Clear models of science leadership. Targeted leadership training for specialists and deep specialists
- Approach to addressing technical skill gaps through mentorships/ secondments. Accreditation and chartership approach
- Continue to grow science systems in and between departments, and build greater links with academia and industry.
Learning and Development in Policy-making
1. The Policy Profession Standards
The Policy Profession Standards describe the knowledge and skills required by policy professionals through their career. These include 18 key skills across three areas: Analysis and Use of Evidence, Politics and Democracy, and Delivery. The skills that many professional backgrounds bring to policy making are also recognised and valued. We help policy makers continue to diversify their experience and skillset, to work in effectively in multidisciplinary units, understanding and shaping their whole policy system – from decision to effect.
We offer accredited courses at different stages at their career – from entry level through to experienced policy leaders.
- Level 4 Policy Apprenticeship provides an entry route into policy making for non-graduates at EO level
- Level 6 Degree Level Apprenticeship for HEO/SEOs
- Kings Post Graduate Masters* is a high quality flexible, modularised postgraduate course for G6/7, designed and delivered by academic experts and practitioners
- LSE Executive Masters in Public Policy (see details below) provides critical thinking, analysis and practitioner led learning from world leading experts for senior civil servants.
3. Policy Curriculum
The Policy Profession has developed a ‘core curriculum’ aligned with the policy skill areas outlined in the Policy Professional Standards.
- Entry level 1
- Practitioner level 2
- Leader level 3
4. Practitioner Led learning
We offer a range of learning bringing together expertise from diverse professional domains across public services.
- For all grades – Knowledge Sharing Series – one hour interactive workshops learning from real life experiences, research and work of other civil servants, academics and experts.
- For Fast Streamers – Fast Stream Policy Basecamp – interactive three day course, including masterclasses, workshops and a policy challenge where Fast Streamers are actively coached by SCS.
- For SCS – Leaders Teaching Leaders workshops – led by Permanent Secretaries sharing experiences, insights and the ‘view from the centre’.
Examples of Strand 4 profession and function training
Policy Profession Accreditation Offering
Postgraduate learning offer
The Postgraduate learning offer is pitched at Level 2 of the Policy Profession Standards. It is a flexible accredited postgraduate qualification targeted towards Grade 6/7s. We believe the contemporary leader needs a high level of both hard and soft skills – expertise in policy analysis and digital technology, in addition to the ability to communicate, listen and disagree well, all combined with a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of power. Therefore, the programme comprises of key modules, all under the three subject pillars of Evidence, Politics and Delivery. Designed for working professionals, the five credit standalone modules are taught entirely online, allowing students to fit study around busy work schedules. Core modules include face to face teaching, discussions, and online learning.
Executive Master of public policy (EMPP)
The EMPP is a unique part-time qualification for working professionals, running for more than 19 months, co-designed and co-delivered by the Civil Service and the London School of Economics. It is aimed to develop those people with the talent and drive to reach the very highest levels of the Policy Profession.
The EMPP equips senior and high-potential civil servants with the cutting-edge analytical tools required to deliver effective policy in an increasingly complex and interdependent world. The programme comprises of: four taught modules (three core and one elective); three ‘Policy in Practice’ weekends, co-delivered by a leading practitioner and leading academic which will explore contemporary practical policy issues; and a group-based Capstone Project exploring real-world current policy issues.
Image 3 shows the Government Projects Academy (GPA) training curriculum linked to accreditation: Major project leadership training, Senior Project leadership training, Practitioner training, and Foundation training, and their different accreditation levels (Master, Senior Practitioner, Practitioner, Foundation), as well as the other GPA programmes, such as Major project sponsorship training
Strand 4 in Practice: Nothing less than world class – Government Projects Academy
This new Academy, already well integrated as part of the government curriculum, is a showcase for the kind of expertise that we will leverage through Strand 4 of the new curriculum. Government Projects Academy (GPA) is responsible for developing world class project delivery skills and expertise in government, and setting professional standards for project professionals. Through the new government contracts for learning and development, it seeks out specialist knowledge and expertise from government, industry and academia.
The Project Delivery profession in the Civil Service already boasts two flagship programmes, the Project Leadership Academy and the Major Projects Leadership Academy. The GPA will build on their success and credibility, and – crucially – improve the delivery of government projects. In operating to a new, rigorous framework for developing and accrediting government project professionals, GPA sets a high bar: it shows how accreditation based on rigorous assessment of an individual’s knowledge, skill, experience and behaviour credibly leads to a better standard of delivery. The aim is for world-class; nothing less.
Strand 5: Domain Knowledge
Key features: This strand focuses on developing and honing the knowledge that is specific to a specialist area such as health, education or transport, drawn up with relevant departmental heads of profession and their HR directors. In some cases the training may include a test or induction. This will give managers reassurance that those seeking to work in their specialist domain have a solid grasp of the relevant evidence and core facts that make them more able team-members, policy-makers and ministerial advisers.
Strand 5 in Practice
Adapting trade policy training to a new environment
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) Trade Policy and Negotiations Faculty (TPNF) runs what is known as the ‘Expert Deep Dive Programme’ to improve knowledge of the critically important specialist area of negotiations. With the involvement of the new curriculum, this innovative type of training, which has been successfully adapted for use during the pandemic and afterwards, can be made more accessible across all of government.
Originally a four-day, face-to-face course, the programme is now delivered virtually, with its interactive elements retained. Prompted to react to the impact of COVID-19, and after assessing the requirements and priorities for virtual delivery across government, the TPNF procured a new training system that supported the continuation of both live and prerecorded training – particularly vital at a time when key trade negotiations were carrying on despite the global impact of the coronavirus; as one participant observed: ‘This course enabled me to more effectively brief the Chancellor on factors at play in our approach towards Japan.’
Since its roll-out in June 2020, the TPNH has allocated 151 places on the Expert Deep Dive programme and expanded access to overseas experts. Through the curriculum, there is great potential to extend the reach of this valuable and stimulating programme further still.
Preparing colleagues for a rewarding career
A great induction is key for preparing colleagues for a rewarding career in the Department for Education (DfE). Building on our school immersion programme where any DfE employee can spend one or two days in a structured visit to a school or post- 16 education setting, we will strengthen and assure the core knowledge we provide to all new joiners. From a brief history of education policy, current departmental commitments across child protection, education and apprenticeships, to key statistics and the stories and experiences from existing DfE colleagues, we will ensure a basic contextual grounding for all colleagues, whatever their role or level.
Section 2: Introducing the new Campus for Government
Every civil servant will be able to find and follow the five strands of the Curriculum in one place – the new online Campus for Government.
The Campus will improve individual motivation, sharpen management responsibility, and make all our training objectives and their benefits more transparent. Just as the bees in a colony make a more productive and cohesive team when they have clear leadership and communication, so will our ‘hive mind’ feel the benefits of the same guidance in our training. By bringing together in one place the many existing schemes, the Campus will achieve greater clarity and coherence in Civil Service training, strengthen overall governance and grip, improve internal consultancy skills, and eliminate programme duplication, making financial savings as a result.
Much as the Open University offers acclaimed distance learning courses via its Faculty for STEM subjects or the Arts, our virtual training HQ will offer courses via faculties, but ones focused on government work.
These will include:
- all Civil Service training bodies, such as the Leadership Academy (CSLA);
- accelerated development schemes;
- profession-led training, such as the Intelligence Assessment Academy and the Government Commercial College; and
- business-specific training, such as the FCDO’s International Academy
The site will be simply laid out with a clear range of easily navigated choices – at a stroke transforming the training landscape for individuals and managers. No longer must we pick through a confusing miscellany of prospectuses, portals and providers. As individuals, we shall have greater agency over our training. We can select what piques our interest, do the training at a time that suits us and judge when we have completed enough elements from one or more Strands to move on. This greater connection to training makes it less a rote exercise than a route to more interesting roles and promotion.
As managers, we shall be able to direct our people more authoritatively to the skills, knowledge and networks from which they will benefit most. Additionally, managers will be able to assess and accredit skills more accurately as our people move through the system, and ask for tangible evidence of their expertise and experience when they seek a particular new role. In this more interventionist model, people are also less likely to be promoted without having first shown adequate proof of their capabilities.
For citizens, too, there is significant upside – beyond the promise of a better trained Civil Service working on their behalf. It is our clear responsibility to use taxpayers’ money efficiently and also effectively, and yet departments spend around £300million a year on training that we believe is often duplicated owing to the current confusing system and our fragmented understanding of it. There is also an over-reliance on expensive external consultancies. The online framework of the Campus, alongside plans to boost in-house consultancy expertise, will serve to bring down costs attributed to overlap, waste and the money spent outside the Civil Service when it is better invested training up our own.
New training styles for different times
Depending on the course, training can happen online or in person. During COVID-19 we have adapted through necessity, and digital and remote training are now the norm; with over 1,000 Civil Service courses delivered virtually in November 2020 reflecting a significant uptake this year. We can be confident that the Campus, by accelerating the virtual roll-out, will open up training to more people around the country by bringing down some geographical barriers that may previously have blocked their access.
Civil servants have simultaneously discovered the myriad advantages of virtual learning that the Campus will promote. Developing sharper focus, self-discipline, logistical prowess and the ability to be truly collaborative online: these qualities are valuable in any job but are particularly useful in a nationwide organisation whose teams increasingly work across different locations.
Among Civil Service organisations, the National Leadership Centre (NLC) and the Civil Service Learning Academy (CSLA) have expanded their online training and will carry over what is proven to work well. The Fast Stream Base Camp induction event was run fully virtually this year, in what is believed to be the largest virtual graduate induction yet undertaken in the UK – a good example of how this style of training can be successfully delivered on a large scale. (Further details on our Induction proposals can be found in Section 3, below.)
In general, training and development will continue to reflect the different ways people are able to learn. COVID-19 restrictions notwithstanding, residential training can also play an important part in focused learning and building strong networks. Thus we are looking at innovative ways to set up a residential training facility for the Campus, a move that would also save the money now spent on hiring external venues for residential and other face-to-face government training.
There are a number of existing public sector residential academies: one new option being explored is a partnership with the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the policy profession, led by the National Leadership Centre.
We recognise too how critical it is for government to become more outward-looking, and for the 450,000 civil servants to work as a closer team with others among the United Kingdom’s five million public servants. In our National Leadership Centre we have a brilliant resource that supports our senior figures who step up to bear the weight of public service – encouraging them to collaborate over society’s most complex challenges, offering them a place to reflect and reassess, helping them attune to the needs of citizens. We will use the full reach of NLC’s extensive networks to maintain close links between government and the public sector, and share NLC’s knowledge and insights with central government staff.
Section 3: Delivery
This new approach and the change of culture it entails will require time, money and great partnership work. The Government Skills and Curriculum Unit (GSCU) has been formed to get the project underway – making some changes this year – and meet our ambitions. It will work with colleagues across government through a newly-created Design Authority to formulate the Campus and Curriculum, and the standards for training and accreditation.
The GSCU will be the glue that binds together the work of the Civil Service professions and functions (such as HR, commercial and finance), encouraging collaboration over training, and in doing so, eliminating overlap; coordinating with each department to make sure the training reaches every civil servant. Initially, people will experience the training through comprehensive and universal inductions, an improved contractual framework and professions that are increasingly embedded across government. This is likely to change as we reassess the nature of the future challenges and opportunities.
For now, we envisage that Strands 1 (Foundations of Public Administration) and 2 (Working in Government) will be led from the GSCU, working with partners that include the Policy Profession and the Operational Delivery Profession (ODP). Strand 3 (Managing and Leading) will be spearheaded by a design council chaired by ODP, joined by GSCU, HR and policy representatives. Strands 4 (Specialist Skills) and 5 (Domain Knowledge) will be led by professions and departments, and supported by the GSCU.
Across both the Curriculum and the Campus, in form, content, scope and scale, we will continue to develop and make changes, always learning from the best approaches in the public and private sectors, in the UK and overseas.
Induction: New Starters
Training begins with induction. It is vital that the new recruits – as many as 40,000 – whom we welcome to the Civil Service each year get off to a sound start. First impressions count. They will feel properly valued and supported when we give them the thoughtful, thorough introduction to the knowledge and networks that they deserve, and that they need to perform to the best of their abilities and for the best interests of the public. And as we reach out to more communities, people who do not follow typical entry routes are more likely to find their way to the Civil Service as word spreads of our superlative welcome for new starters. Later this year, therefore, there will be a new approach to formal inductions. The aim: to break down some of the mystique around the Civil Service and its more arcane ways, and to kickstart new colleagues in their roles. Making the most productive use of their first phases in the Civil Service, and in some cases even before they start in role where this is feasible, we will draw on the most useful elements from each of the five strands of the Core Curriculum, adapted according to people’s role and grade, and what they already know.
From the current emphasis on e-learning, we will shift towards high-quality interactive group teaching on a user-friendly platform – maximising the potential of live webinars and combining these with the attractions of bite-sized resources you can scroll through on the bus, adding your own comments and learning from those left by others: social media-style. New starters will be able to track their progress and take a test on what they’ve learned: at the end, they may be awarded a certificate based on a pass/fail test, depending on the outcome of a pilot test we will carry out. Our plan, pending the pilot results, is that all new entrants below Senior Civil Service (SCS) grades will benefit from new-style induction by 2022.
New members of the SCS will also benefit from revised inductions from the spring of 2021 – our response to the recommendations in the 2015 Baxendale Report on how best to attract, induct and thereby retain our talented people. Across both the Curriculum and the Campus, in form, content, scope and scale, we will continue to develop and make changes, always learning from the best approaches in the public and private sectors, and from our own occupational psychologists within the Civil Service, both in the UK and overseas.
Pen Portraits: Contrasting department induction journeys
The corporate inductions we describe here illustrate the contrasting experiences of two new joiners who took different routes into the same department.
CASE STUDY 1: HR Fast Streamer: Joined in September 2020
University graduate with existing sound, but not extensive, understanding of Parliament, the Civil Service and wider governmental machinery.
- 5 months before start: Receives ‘Welcome Pack’ explaining the Fast Stream and a letter from Fast Stream Early Talent (FSET) head.
- 1-4 months before start: Receives weekly HR Fast Stream newsletter covering different topics: what is HR? What is policy? What are government departments?
- 2 months before start: Discovery Week (virtual participation on MS Teams): involves talks (approx. 2 hours per day) from HR Fast Stream team (e.g Head of FSET, Head of HR Fast Stream, Government Chief People Officer). Receives information pack explaining the role of government departments; support networks; introduction to the specifics of the stream participants have chosen
- 3 days before start: Basecamp, a (virtual) three-day onboarding event that focuses on team-building exercises, the values expected of Fast Streamers, and the principles of ‘working’ as a Civil Servant (e.g. sprint exercises, brainstorming activities). Optional elective seminars on a range of CS-related topics (e.g. What is SAGE?; Private Office Demystified; The Future of Government), but attendance limited to only three, meaning individuals must make tough choices at this early stage.
- Weeks 1-3 after start: Access opened up to intranet and the New Joiner Hub, which explain the mandatory induction passages on CS Learning (including legally required courses such as data protection, but no mention or signposting for the corporate CS Induction package).
CASE STUDY 2: Executive Officer (EO): Joined in March 2019
Previous experience of call centre roles; has public affairs background.
- Before start date: Offer of employment received. No further communication until security clearance established, a six-month process. No signposting to any pre-reading, or background information received. No induction opportunities: left to the individual to take the initiative and look up publicly available information
- Week 1: Owing to a lack of IT equipment, the EO cannot access the intranet and New Joiner Hub, making the first few days in the role even trickier than normal.
- Weeks 2–4:
- Induction begins: a one-hour session explaining the history, purpose and values of the department. It also sets out processes and practicalities of which new joiners need to be aware: e.g. the intranet; welfare resources; flexible working policies; buddy system, virtual coffees and so on. (This information is now available online for new joiners).
- Team and directorate inductions get underway: introductory meetings with other close team members and directorate-wide presentations that explain where the new joiner sits within their department.
- With the arrival of IT equipment, the EO finally gains access to the intranet and New Joiner Hub. This explains the mandatory induction modules on CS Learning (legally required courses such as data protection) but again there is no mention of or signposting to the corporate CS Induction package.
CASE STUDY 1: HR Fast Streamer:
University graduate with existing sound, but not extensive, understanding of Parliament, the Civil Service and wider governmental machinery. Fast Streamer induction gives a good but incomplete understanding of the Civil Service, in part because new Fast Streamers are (sometimes wrongly) assumed to have some core foundation knowledge. Induction focuses on instilling a sense of individual value and explaining how the Fast Stream feeds the Civil Service talent pool. A sharper focus on how the Civil Service works, as the new Curriculum will do, would improve induction into our flagship programme for graduates.
CASE STUDY 2: Executive Officer (EO):
Previous experience of call centre roles; has public affairs background. The late arrival of IT equipment delayed core training and induction, with a knock-on effect on their getting used to Civil Service processes. 18 months later, the EO reports there are still gaps in their knowledge of the corporate Civil Service structure.
The Training Providers
We know from feedback what colleagues want training to look and feel like. Easy to use and find. Flexible. Comprehensive. Moulded to their needs, not ‘one size fits all’. We will continue to ask the professions and in-house experts, and others across public services to share their invaluable experiences: the Knowledge Series and Leaders Teaching Leaders events are popular for the unique insights that are divulged. Where we outsource training, it is in part to increase our capacity for assessment and accreditation, or to unlock knowledge that is hard to reach internally – commercial expertise in the energy market, for example; or the consultancy skills that we currently source from outside but are now developing in-house.
In terms of external providers, the Curriculum and Campus for Government Skills are backed by KPMG and EY, leading names in professional services. Their brief is to put the individual civil servant first. A service desk will take telephone and email enquiries and steer us to the right product or provider – from among over 100 training specialists (over 80% of them SMEs) with more still that can be brought quickly into play as required.
From the employer’s point of view – departments, professions and functions – training will be continuously updated so it stays innovative and on a par with the best programmes in the UK and elsewhere. Its effectiveness, which we cover in more detail in Section 4, will be analysed and evaluated in real time to make sure courses are achieving what they should.
But in the final analysis, the providers will only be as effective as we are clients. They are devising training in our image, and the image must be one of excellence: best-in-class. It is down to departments, professions and functions to be ‘smart clients’ – engaged, challenging providers at all times to explore more options, dig deeper into your needs, telling them what is having the greatest impact for learners and achieving the best outcomes for the public.
The role of the Civil Service professions
Many of us already belong to one or more of the ‘professions’: groups that bring together by role people with common skills and expertise – from communicators, engineers and procurement managers to lawyers and policy professionals.
Professions have an important role in the flow of talent to departments and the functions. They train people in areas where they forecast that a set of particular skills and capabilities will be needed: trade negotiations in the wake of the referendum result is an obvious example. And the professions build on the sense of passion and pride in public service that brings many of us to the Civil Service in the first place, and which should burn ever brighter the longer we work for our fellow citizens.
This important work will carry on: indeed, it will be underpinned by the Curriculum’s focus in Strand 4 on strengthening specialist and technical skills. The professions will continue to be masters of the material in their respective domains, framing expectations about the quality of content and the rigour of their members’ training.
Overall we want teams, and not just individuals, to think about how training will help them to deliver for the public. There are two advantages to this approach. First, it makes it easier to link what is learned with what the team or unit then achieves. Second, it is easier to embed the new knowledge in a wider group of people than is possible when one or two individuals take part in training off-site and report back to peers.
Section 4: Impact
Metrics and measurables are crucial to any programme launch. Yet, it is admittedly difficult to gauge the short-term impacts of a training course on the long-term success of a government intervention. It is also hard to calculate the precise upsides that we capture from a workforce that is more motivated, engaged and incentivised from having undergone new-style training.
Our solution is to use a combination of hard and soft data points to ensure that the Campus and Curriculum for Government Skills is meeting its ambitious aims and objectives.
Pumping the provider framework for details and taking a generally more interventionist approach to management will elicit more information about people’s current qualifications and skills, ranging from languages to accredited courses. This will enable us to draw more meaningful comparisons about the improvements being made.
Proof of skills that is offered in the form of certificates will be cross-checked against feedback and objective valuation.
We will monitor the bill for external consultants, which we would expect to see come down as we take more of the work in-house, with the Civil Service accelerating plans to launch its own set-up under the working name ‘Crown Consultancy’.
We will also take into account the candid feedback from people who have taken a course, and tally up the numbers who turn up not only for the first session, but carry on coming.
More difficult to collect but useful to analyse is how much knowledge learned on a course people go on to use in the course of their duties, as is whether ministers believe they are receiving more cogent advice. For operational areas, we can see whether productivity increases after a training course – whether more activities are completed with greater customer satisfaction. We can also look at how attending regular and relevant training affects the staff engagement and attrition rates. We will explore the best ways to gather this information.
Section 5: Next Steps
We know what individuals want from training: job satisfaction; faster career progression; more transferable skills; the enjoyment and pride that come from mastering those skills and putting them into practice. We also know what managers, and senior leaders, and ministers, want: civil servants and teams who are more efficient, effective and better equipped.
Policies, frontline services, ministerial advice, project management, crisis handling – all will go better with more comprehensive training. As we develop in-house expertise we will rely less on consultants – and give civil servants the chance to tackle the knottiest problems.
Institutions will become stronger as a result. With staff expertise and experience running deeper, they will be more resistant to shocks and better able to weather crises. Evidence of higher performance and standards will enhance our global standing, boosting our soft power and influence as a sovereign nation.
The potential financial advantages, meanwhile, are apparent. Using fewer consultants would also save taxpayer’s money, as will cutting the duplication of training in the Civil Service.
Making the changes we map out here will require a cultural shift. The feedback from staff suggests they are ready for them; the challenges ahead demand them.
The Government Skills and Curriculum Unit will work with colleagues from across government on these plans and is setting up a Design Authority through which we can deliberate on the creation of the Government Campus and Curriculum and the standards that will apply to training and accreditation. While those discussions will get underway shortly, we are pushing ahead with certain changes.
These include the proposals to:
- Revamp inductions this year – a move whose benefits will soon spread beyond new starters. A pass/fail assessment we shall pilot will aim to give managers the assurance they are looking for about new starters’ capabilities, and give the latter a ‘licence to practice’ in their first months in the Civil Service. We will also support more thorough, consistent inductions for ministers and special advisers. These will give them a more in-depth introduction to their department, its impact and structure, and help them navigate the machinery of government. Using Success Profiles, we will identify the essential skills we know are required if someone is to perform effectively, and then develop the curriculum and accreditation criteria to reflect them.
- Take a particularly close look at how we develop the interpersonal, management and leadership skills we want to stimulate, and make sure the courses we run are strongly linked to evidence of how these best develop. More generally, governance of the Campus and Curriculum will set standards that ensure high quality training, as set out under the five strands. Whether the topic is ‘Collaborating Better’, ‘Excel 101’, or ‘Submissions SOS’, the emphasis will be on effective, evidence-based training.
- Refresh the curriculum and optimise the structure of our accelerated development programmes: the Fast Stream, Future Leaders Scheme, Senior Leaders Scheme and High Potential Development Scheme, to name but a few. Since these programmes are designed to create future leaders of the Civil Service, the goal will be to align the training explicitly with the five strands in order to maximise the career development of our colleagues with the greatest leadership potential. We will also review our recruitment and training programmes for Apprenticeships to set the highest standard in vocational training.
- Specifically, review both the content and delivery of the Fast Stream, based on feedback from current and former fast streamers, and departments. We envisage a more precisely defined and smaller Fast Stream designed to meet the future needs of the Civil Service through the mid-term to long-term requirements of functions, professions and departments.
- Create new courses and institutions that will support the new approach. Senior civil servants will be taught improved data skills. A Writing Academy session to improve drafting has already helped colleagues improve policy documents they are sending up to ministers. Other initiatives include the potential Sandhurst Leadership Partnership, a College for National Security, and the Service Delivery Academy.
You may have read this prospectus because you work for the Civil Service. Or perhaps you simply have an interest in how the Civil Service works for all citizens, and specifically how it prepares its people for this particularly public-spirited job to which they have been led.
Over the last year, for many, the demands have been bruising. And that is why now, more than ever, we need to regroup and go again.
The new-style training approach that we civil servants are crying out for, that the big picture circumstances demand and that the public deserves, will build on the good work of the last few years. As well as on our many existing strengths and on successful previous changes – and make for a stronger, more focused and better performing Civil Service.
And that is something we can all celebrate.