BRITAIN'S brightest school leavers can bypass university to head straight for a career at the centre of government under a new apprenticeship.
The civil service is recruiting 100 18-21 year olds for a two-year Whitehall training programme that will start in September.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme would allow the Government to recruit talented school leavers who do not want to go into higher education.
He added: "We are working to reform the civil service, building on its strengths while addressing its weaknesses. Like any big organisation, the success of the civil service depends on its staff. It already employs some of Britain's best and brightest and we have one of the most popular graduate schemes.
"But we are in a global race and we need to attract more of the best talent, including those who have chosen not to pursue higher education. This new Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme will provide high-quality opportunities for 100 young people, in addition to those available through the existing graduate Fast Stream."
It comes after the Government announced plans last month to increase entry to top professions, such as law, through apprenticeships.
Recruitment for the civil service scheme, which places successful candidates in government departments, begins in April. It does not guarantee a job at the end but candidates can apply for graduate posts. The Government aims to increase the total places available to 500 so the programme matches the graduate Fast Stream.
Head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake said: "The civil service is a great place to work and offers a diverse range of challenging and rewarding jobs - our latest survey shows that 89% of staff are interested in what they do.
"Our graduate Fast Stream programme is consistently ranked in the Times Top 100 graduate employers and our ambition is for this civil service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme to have the same credibility and status. Indeed, the scheme would place the civil service amongst the best in the private sector.
"We are committed to giving more young people a chance to work at the heart of government and to receive first class training. Just because someone hasn't been to university doesn't mean they shouldn't have a bright career ahead of them."
© Press Association 2012