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Farewell and happy retirement to GFiE Director Peter Lawrence OBE

Pete Lawrence, Director for GFIE, retires in May after 43 years in the Civil Service. We caught up with Pete to ask him a few questions about the highlights and challenges of his career. He shared with us a few experiences, and skills he had gained over the years, and also left us with some clues to help navigate a successful work life…

Profile Picture of Peter Lawrence

What made you join the Civil Service in the first instance?

I joined as a stop gap role, to work out what to do next, initially in the then Employment Department in London, working in HR. A few years further down the line, here we are!

What has been the most memorable moment of your career?

There have been so many, but the obvious one was being awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2014 and going to Windsor Castle in December 2014 to receive my medal and have a short conversation with HM the Queen. Those 45 personal seconds with her felt so much longer. 

There are a lot of other memorable experiences but the ones that stand out are where I can see I made a difference.  Things like the open data and data sharing work I led that has resulted in Apps being developed driven by public sector data such as live train and bus times or seeing how much government departments spend and on what.Finishing my career leading the GFiE work has been hugely satisfying seeing  the real difference it has made to the lives and futures of candidates and their families . 

Has it all been about getting the task done?

No absolutely not!  The people you work with matter and I have always valued supporting individuals to develop for their career, not just for the job they are currently doing. It has been a privilege to see great people from my teams grow in their capability and move on, achieve success and progress in their careers.  I find this really satisfying, despite the hole they leave, but which of course presents another opportunity.  

What will you miss most about working for the Civil Service?

The people I have worked with, the wide range of things I have worked on and the experiences I have gained along the way.   

What led to your involvement with Going Forward Into Employment?

GFiE came about through a conversation on how we could provide more opportunities for prison leavers in the Civil Service. The Recruitment Principles, the rules about how you can be appointed as a civil servant, made it difficult for this group, but as Chief Executive of the Civil Service Commission I was able to influence and bring about some changes to the Recruitment Principles in April 2018 to make it easier.   Revised Exceptions 2 and 10 were developed to allow the Civil Service to lead by example. Since then the scheme has expanded and now supports many other people who face barriers to employment.  

What have you found rewarding/challenging about (GFIE)?

The direct impact that it has for candidates, the people around them, and the impact of people’s perception about the Civil Service has been rewarding. Starting and growing things like this is always challenging and GFiE was no different.  Winning the hearts and minds of other civil servants to engage with it and provide vacancies specifically for GFiE was and remains a challenge and priority. Getting the first 10 GFiE appointments was really hard as finding vacancy holders prepared to go first without any examples requires a degree of risk taking. We have however, made fantastic progress and expanded the scheme and over 3,000 individuals have now been appointed via a GFiE life chance scheme. There is however, still more to do.

What is your advice for young Civil Servants looking to remain and progress their Career within the Civil Service?

I would say seize every opportunity that presents itself as it will ultimately help your career in the long run.  Take considered risks and where you can make your own luck! When looking for promotion, be selective about the role, don't just chase the grade - struggling in a first role at a new grade is not where you want to be. Learn from your successes as much as from things that don’t quite go to plan.  Importantly, believing in yourself makes a huge difference.

What skills acquired from working in the Civil Service do you think will be really useful in your retirement, and how?

I hope that many of the experiences and skills I have gained during my career, such as understanding data, managing finances and leadership, can be used to continue helping people. I am going to Chair a small national Charity, but can’t say which one yet as it has not been announced.  I will probably also look for other small roles to take on, but those that won’t take up too much of my time.

Do you have any plans for your spare time in your retirement?

Yes, a lot! I will be spending more time travelling around the UK, there are so many parts I have not yet explored . The scenery and views can be fantastic so I’lI be camping a lot with my Land Rover and doing loads of walking. I'm looking forward to having more freedom and the ability to do what I want and when I want. I will also be spending quality time with family, and my two grandsons, but definitely not taking up a full time babysitting role!

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If you would like to know know more about GFiE Life Chance Schemes, or are a civil servant and want to discuss providing life changing opportunities to individuals by using GFiE to recruit into vacancies you have coming up, please get in contact with the GfiE Team at

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