Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

National Graduate Development Programme - council information pack

Front cover of NGDP council information pack 2023 to 2024
Council information pack

Developing the next generation of local government leaders

There has never been a more important time for local government to develop the future leaders of our sector. As we support our communities to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we build capacity by recruiting the next generation of senior managers, directors and chief executives. Now more than ever, we must develop our talented workforce to ensure our organisations are equipped to meet the challenges we face today, and are flexible and resilient enough to navigate what the future may bring.

Identifying and nurturing the next generation of local government leaders will be essential to build capacity in our sector, and to meet the demands of the future.

The National Graduate Development Programme for local government (NGDP) has been developing new talent for over 20 years. The programme attracts top graduates who are driven, passionate and committed to improving public services, and provides local government with the high-calibre managers and leaders that communities need.

The NGDP is highly regarded by councils, graduates and the wider sector, consistently ranked in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and shortlisted in 2021 for the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) ‘Best Overall Graduate Scheme’. It offers the chance to recruit the brightest and best graduates, whilst relieving your organisation of much of the time, effort and cost that a national scale recruitment entails.

Our bespoke multi-stage recruitment has been tailored to find those passionate about a career in local government. We can help you recruit talented graduates with real leadership potential, a desire to make a difference, and the capacity to deliver change and transformation.

We have listened to your needs and made it easier for you to take part. As well as recruiting from our diverse, national talent pool, we offer flexible options to suit any organisation’s needs. This could allow you to recruit graduates who live and work locally, develop existing talent within your organisation, or even partner with another council to take on trainees.

I know from my experience working in councils the value of employing an NGDP graduate. At the LGA, we take on new graduates every year, who make a real difference to our organisation. We are also incredibly proud of our alumni network, which includes senior managers, directors and chief executives, who make a massive contribution as their local government careers flourish.

If you are interested in getting on board please get in touch so that we can help you attract and retain the brightest and best in the public sector.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, Local Government Association

Throughout my own local government career, I’ve been committed to offering opportunities to the aspiring young leaders of tomorrow. Within local government it’s important that we think about the future and how we can grow and support young people into middle and senior leadership roles.

Monica Fogarty, Chief Executive, Warwickshire County Council

What is the National Graduate Development Programme?

The only national graduate programme specifically for local government.

The NGDP is the LGA’s flagship management trainee programme. It offers councils a unique opportunity to grow their own local government leaders. Every year it provides the sector with high quality graduates ready to work on strategic projects which contribute to the delivery of your council’s goals.

The NGDP is a two year programme, where graduates are employed by councils and undertake a minimum of three placements. The LGA provides a prestigious complementary learning and development offer which is carried out alongside their employment, so that the graduates can implement their learning whilst working on real projects.

At the end of their two year programme the graduates will have developed skills across a variety of services. The NGDP acts as an opportunity for talented graduates to fast track their local government career and gives councils the opportunity to nurture and develop their own talent.

Local government's national graduate development programme

The NGDP provides councils with management trainees who have leadership potential and the capacity to work enthusiastically on innovative and strategic projects. To help realise this potential it also provides a bespoke and prestigious learning and development programme to all graduates.

Why should my council take part in the NGDP?

Building capacity

The NGDP helps councils to build capacity in their workforce. Being part of the NGDP allows councils to start thinking earlier about longer-term succession planning and future leadership potential. Growing your own talent is less costly than recruiting higher up in the management structure, and taking on a graduate through the NGDP ensures you will have additional corporate capacity and capability at a senior level. Amongst our alumni you’ll find chief executives, directors, senior managers and others leading transformational change across the sector.

National networking

By employing graduates as part of the NGDP, your management trainees will be provided with a large national network of other trainees, plus access to a range of partners. This not only enriches the experience for the management trainee, but brings a wealth of best practice and knowledge back to your council.

Making recruitment easy for you

As a national scheme, the NGDP promotes local government to the graduate market on behalf of councils. Last year, NGDP attracted applications from around 5,000 graduates.

The LGA runs a rigorous, multi-stage recruitment process, all designed bespoke for local government. We ensure that the most high-calibre graduates are then put forward to interview at your council. All applicants must have a minimum of a 2:2 degree and are subject to situational judgement and video assessments before taking part in a local government assessment centre.

Graduate recruitment can be time-consuming and demanding on council resources. The NGDP gives councils access to a national marketing and recruitment campaign to draw from a large talent pool, reducing costs and helping to identify the most promising future leaders for your council.


The NGDP recruits graduates from a range of different backgrounds, universities and degree disciplines; our aim is to reflect the diverse communities that we serve.

The NGDP has done a huge amount of work to ensure the diversity of the graduates coming through reflects the diversity of the communities you serve. Find out more about this by visiting our diversity and inclusion webpage.

The flexibility to work for you

The NGDP offers a range of flexible options for councils to take part.

Recruiting locally

Taking part in the NGDP offers councils access to a national pool of high calibre graduates, however we recognise that some councils may wish to recruit from their own communities. We are able to provide a range of options for councils who wish to participate in the programme at a local level. We can work with you to decide what ‘local’ means to you, and support you with your own local recruitment campaign to target those candidates. Successful candidates then become part of the national programme and have access to the same learning and development opportunities as the other trainees.

Developing your talent

The NGDP can offer an exciting and appealing development opportunity to internal staff who you have identified as the future managerial leaders of your council. We can support you to grow your own talent, by offering your existing graduate employees the opportunity to join the NGDP and access the learning and development offer.

Join with a partner organisation

You can work with a partner authority or group of authorities to join the scheme. In recent years we have already had combined authorities, counties partnering with districts, and housing and transport organisations take part in the NGDP.

What is the learning and development offer?

To support graduates to fast-track their career, we provide a complementary learning and development programme. Graduates gain the chance to learn, network and develop together over the two years, whilst working towards an ILM Level 7 qualification.
The learning and development programme has been designed to develop future leaders and ensure that your council gets a significant return on investment. The objectives of the learning and development are:

  • to enable participants to critically evaluate the challenges facing local government
  • to provide participants with high level capabilities in management and leadership, grounded in a public sector context
  • to provide participants with a strong understanding of key local government areas of work and management
  • to enhance personal effectiveness as a leader and manager
  • to increase self-awareness and awareness of others.

What's expected of my council?

We ask councils to: 

  • Help us to promote to raise the profile of the programme locally and attract a diverse and talented pool of candidates.
  • Conduct a local interview at the end of the recruitment process. At this stage the candidates will have been through a rigorous series of assessments, but we want to give you the opportunity to ensure they are the best fit for your council.
  • Employ national management trainees on a minimum two-year fixed term contract.
  • Pay national management trainee salaries at NJC spinal column point (SCP) 20 (this is currently £30,296).
  • Nominate a member of staff to be the placement coordinator for the programme, once the council's national management trainee(s) are in place.
  • Organise a minimum of three placements for each national management trainee over the two years.

What kind of placements should be offered?

Your council will have full control over what placements to offer the trainees, based on where the need is most prevalent and their skills can be developed and utilised. We can provide advice and guidance on appropriate placements to ensure that trainees work at a high competency level.

What will the LGA do?

  • Annually subsidise the programme on behalf of councils in England.
  • Market the programme to high-calibre graduates across the UK.
  • Assess candidates’ suitability through a rigorous and established multi-stage recruitment process.
  • Embed the values of equality, diversity and inclusion at every step of the process.
  • Support councils to access and market themselves to candidates.
  • Fund and organise a national programme of learning, development and networking.

What does it cost my council?

The host authority is expected to pay the salary for the graduate, set at the NJC payscale spinal column point 20 (this is currently £30,296). This is competitive with other graduate programmes. The authority will also be asked to pay a one-off fee, paid per graduate only on their successful appointment (this is currently expected to be £3,500 for 2023/24 subject to confirmation of the LGA budget). This covers the bespoke, multi-stage recruitment, plus the whole learning and development programme and CMI qualification.

NGDP timetable

Attracting, assessing and matching top graduates to your council follows a similar timetable each year.

October 2023

The NGDP’s applications process open for graduates. Councils can start signing up to take part in the NGDP.

January 2024

Applications close. Graduates who pass the first stage begin video interviews.

February/March 2024

Top graduates complete an assessment centre and those who pass will have an opportunity to meet with participating councils.

29 February 2024

Our deadline for councils to sign up for the NGDP. (If you are recruiting only local candidates via our ‘local route’ you may interview at this point.)

May/June 2024

Candidates who have passed the assessment process are matched with councils for interview processes based on the candidates’ preferences. Councils conduct interviews and offer places to their preferred candidates. Candidates accept council offers and prepare to join the organisation in the autumn.


How can my council get involved?

Talk to the LGA about signing up to the scheme

Discuss participation in the programme and how you can benefit from the next cohort of high-calibre national management trainees.

Speak to a council that is already involved

If you’d like to hear some first-hand experience of the NGDP and how it has worked in another council, please let us know. The LGA can put you in touch with another authority that can tell you all you need to know about participating.

Please contact

Áine Gallagher,
Programme Manager
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

The options

National management trainee (NMT)

  • Recruited through a national pool of graduates from across the UK.
  • Our rigorous and competitive recruitment process means we select the highest calibre graduates for you to interview.

Shared national management trainee

  • All the benefits of participating in the full programme but NMT(s) and their placements are shared between councils.
  • Partnerships and practical arrangements are the responsibility of the councils involved.
  • Employment is divided proportionately between participating councils and the fee per graduate will be split between the councils.

Local recruitment for National Management Trainees

  • Supported recruitment and equal access to the NGDP’s learning and development programme. Your council markets its NMT position(s) to candidates from your local area in the same timeframe as the NGDP’s national campaign.
  • Local candidates follow the same assessment process as national candidates, to ensure they meet the same standard.
  • Successful candidates will become part of the national cohort with access to NGDP learning and development, networks and knowledge events.
  • Please note that the deadline to sign up for local recruitment for Cohort 26 was 31 October 2023.