The Cabinet Office has launched a new “technology in business fast stream” scheme, aimed at recruiting top graduates to work in government IT.

The fast stream project is set to recruit 20 graduates this year, selecting those with the potential to become future chief information officers or leaders of large-scale IT-enabled business change – a key theme of the Transformational Government programme, which was recently given new impetus by the government’s introduction of a new Service Transformation Agreement for the public sector.

The Transformational Government programme includes measures aimed at increasing the level of IT skills in the public sector by establishing a government IT profession. Earlier this week, former local authority chief executive and top civil servant Sir Michael Bichard warned that skill shortages continue to be a major problem in the public sector.

Graduates entering the technology in business fast stream will be placed in central government departments, where they will receive training and development. They will each have a senior mentor to help shape their career development and will be given opportunities to work with key IT leaders across the wider public sector.

The full-scale launch follows a successful pilot that recruited six graduates last year. One of these, business management graduate Sarah Scott, has now started work with HM Revenue & Customs.

She said: "When I started my university course I never thought it would lead me to a job in government, and certainly not a place on a scheme aimed at developing the IT leaders of the future. Right from the start I'll be working on a project to make IT operations more environmentally friendly – it's a really exciting area and is a long way from the stereotypical image of dull computer experts."

Applications for this year's scheme are open to those with first, upper second or postgraduate degrees in business, engineering, librarianship, mathematical science, physical science, technology or IT management for business.