The UK government has appointed 11 civil servants to head up a new training scheme to develop the skills of those working in international trade, while also attracting more trade professionals.

The heads of the international trade profession will give seminars and run a mentoring scheme to help staff improve their trade knowledge and advance their career opportunities within government. Academics and other senior trade experts will participate in the programme as well.

This focus on training comes as the department for international trade (DIT) seeks to bolster its post-Brexit trade preparations, with international trade secretary Liam Fox calling the initiative “another important step in getting UK trade policy Brexit-ready”.

The new team will help train UK trade negotiators so they “are ready to strike trade deals around the world” as the country leaves the EU, explains Crawford Falconer, the government’s chief trade negotiation adviser, who will oversee the cross-department group in its efforts to grow the existing national trade capability.

The new heads of international trade profession are: Lewis Neal in the foreign and commonwealth office, Bill Williamson in tax (HMRC), Rachel Turner in international development, John Parkinson in transport, Richard Clarke in the home office, Matthew Taylor and Richard Knox in the treasury, Rhys Bowen in the department for exiting the EU, Amy Holmes in department for environment, food and rural affairs, Tim Colley in the department for business, energy and industrial strategy, and Graham Floater in the department for digital, culture, media and sport.

They are all senior civil servants working in trade policy in their respective departments, a government spokesperson tells GTR, and will take on the responsibility in addition to their current roles.

Commenting further on the programme, Falconer says: “Through the profession we are ensuring government attracts the best and brightest talent by not only offering trade professionals a clear route into working on trade policy, exports and investment at the centre of government but also nurturing their ability for the future through access to world-class training.”

External partners involved in the training thus far include the University of Cambridge, University College London, the Global Council, and former US trade representative Susan Schwab.