Early careers toolkit

The LGA has created an early careers toolkit which contains guidance and resources to help councils engage with providers and young people, and promote local government as a good place to work.

Developing an early careers strategy

Local authorities face increasing pressures on their ability to recruit and retain staff. At a time of ever growing demand for council services, it is vital they engage with the future workforce.

There are many benefits for developing a robust and effective early careers strategy. It can support your council in engaging with young people and local providers, as well as helping to raise awareness of career paths available.

An effective strategy can:

  • successfully promote local government to students and school leavers as a good place to work
  • demonstrate the wide variety of paths into the sector including apprenticeships, supported internships and graduate schemes
  • create strong partnerships with schools, colleges and universities.
  • help shape the future workforce
  • create a recruitment pipeline
  • develop the skills and experience of existing staff.

The LGA’s early careers strategy template is a useful starting point in developing this.

It is important this fits into a broader recruitment and retention strategy for both current employees and those considering working in local government. The LGA will continue to create resources to support councils in promoting local government and engaging potential employees. We have information aimed at helping councils with workforce staffing and management processes elsewhere on our website.

Setting early careers targets

Local authorities can support individuals in developing their skills and give them opportunities to start their career. It is beneficial to set specific corporate targets. This could include percentage targets for care leavers going into apprenticeships. You could also consider setting targets for the number of work experience, industry placements or supported internships that your council supports.

The benefits of setting early careers targets are:

  • opportunities to set clear targets for the council to work towards
  • a means of monitoring progress
  • increasing the number of young people working within local government
  • supporting the promotion of local government.

94% of respondents said they were experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties (2022 Local Government Workforce Survey)

What are the challenges facing young people?

The Youth Voice Census is the biggest collection of youth voice and insights in the UK and is led by Youth Employment UK. It provides a unique understanding of the experience young people are having.

Some of the key findings from their most recent report are:

  • 32 per cent of young people have no idea or are unsure about the type of career or jobs they would like to do in the future
  • only 34 per cent of young people thought they understood the skills employers are looking for
  • over half of young people looking for jobs think their biggest barrier to work will be a lack of work experience and only 36 per cent of young people in education have access to work experience
  • Less than a third of young people aged 19+ think employers are supportive of hiring young people.

Councils can address some of these challenges. A successful early careers strategy can support young people with securing employment, developing workplace skills, raising confidence and providing inspiration for their career ambitions.

32 per cent of young people have no idea or are unsure about the type of career or jobs they would like to do in the future.

What are the entry routes into local government?

It is important for local authorities to provide a wide range of ways for young people to get into local government. This can help promote the sector as a great place to work and maximise the opportunities to establish the next generation of employees.


40% of employers do not hire from the 18-21 age group ('Bridging the gap', IES, Jan 2023)

Engaging with providers

It is important for councils to develop partnerships with local educational providers, including secondary schools, colleges or universities. This provides a great opportunity to promote local government to young people. Providers are eager to work with employers in order to support their students.

Some examples of the types of activities you could get involved in are outlined in the table below and expanded on in the drop-down menu beneath.

Activity Details
Provider talks and lesson plans Lead talks with students promoting opportunities in local government.
Employer set projects Education institutions may look to set projects for their students. This is a great way for students to experience relevant projects in the sector.
Recruitment fairs Providers will often hold recruitment fairs where they invite employers to promote vacancies and opportunities.
Virtual work experience Virtual work experience offers students the chance to learn more about local government and undertake tasks that are sector specific
Internships Internships give individuals the opportunities gain experience of working in local government and develop workplace skills.
Promotion of vacancies Whether it is entry level work, apprenticeships or graduate level positions, you can promote your council’s opportunities to local providers.
Employer visits Some providers look to take their students on employer visits. This is a useful way for them to see a real workplace and get an idea of the what working in local government is like.
Mock interviews Some providers ask organisations to provide support with mock interviews. This allows students to practice their interview skills.
Career Ambassador programmes Creating a Career Ambassador programme within your council is another good way of engaging young people.
The Careers and Enterprise Company The Careers and Enterprise Company is the national body for careers education in England, supporting schools and colleges to deliver modern careers education. It aims to support young people to find their next step.


Employability skills in local government

Working in local government requires a wide variety of skills. Ensuring you have a strategy in place to enable young people to develop these, including during work placements, is important. Some of these are listed below.

Ensuring the recruitment process is fit for purpose

Young people may be new to the workplace and have a different approach to seeking opportunities. Therefore it is important your recruitment strategy reflects this.

A recruitment and retention best practice page has been created which focuses on the six P’s: Plan, Promote, Process, Partnerships, People and Pledge.

Engaging with young people

Each year there are more young people looking to enter to world of work and as a sector we need to ensure we engage directly with the future workforce. Below are some ideas you may want to consider:

Online visibility

Review your website and your jobs board to reflect on how your council is represented. This is an opportunity for you to sell the benefits of working in local government and the array of careers available. When considering joining an organisation, 58 percent of young people stated that it is important that an organisation has a good reputation (Youth Employment UK Youth Voice Census 2023).

Social media presence

Social media is a brilliant tool for your council to increase awareness of career opportunities. You could use this as an opportunity to celebrate case studies of young people working in local government and those who have progressed within the council.

Progression plan

Young people are interested in career progression so ensuring your council has a robust and clear progression plan or development plan is important. The Institute for Employment Studies found that young people desire a job that is interesting and fulfilling so creating careers that reflect this is important. Consider what mentorship and training programmes are available for your young staff.

Review and update

Continue to review and develop the content you produce and publish. It may be beneficial to create a timeline, so you understand when you need to update content. You could use this as an opportunity to examine your job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive and engaging.

Developing and retaining young employees


50% of employers hire or would hire young people to build a talent pipeline ('Bridging the gap', IES)

It is important to put strategies and support in place that will help you retain your younger staff.

What is the education landscape?

It is important for local government to understand the changing skills and employment landscape in order to successfully build a skilled workforce, promote the sector and engage with the next generation of employees. You can access a guide for employers on the education landscape. This includes information on the benefits for business of engaging with schools and colleges, ways to get involved, case studies and a look at the current education system.

Case studies

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Barnsley Council's 'inclusive offer' creates opportunities for young people who need extra support to benefit from work. Through programme funding, the council converted 20 entry-level positions has ring-fenced apprenticeship opportunities and paid work experience placements. 

The inclusive offer has had a positive impact on the diversity of the council workforce, with the apprenticeships attracting and retaining young talent into the workforce. 

Read more: 

Virtual work experience

Virtual work experience programmes have the opportunity to engage young people and give them an understanding of council life and the services it offers. This is a brilliant way to balance engaging the future workforce and reflect the hybrid workplace model. 

Read more:


Useful resources