Graduates aiming for a management career in the NHS will face strong competition for a place on the service’s training programmes, according to NHS national resourcing manager Rob Farace.

In 2010, around 15,000 applicants jostled for just 150 places, and similar levels are expected this year when recruitment begins.

New graduates who want the best chance of getting a place need to keep up to date with the “challenges” the NHS is battling to overcome, Mr Farace advised.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, he says anyone who reads the sector-specific journals, as well as the press, will be at an advantage over others because they are able to keep abreast of the effects of the government’s huge cuts drive, which will see £20bn slashed from budgets.

Also, people who take their own initiative and arrange some volunteering or an internship to boost their experience, as well as talking to current NHS staff, will be judged more favourably.

NHS management training covers four key areas: informatics, finance, general management and human resources.

Recruitment for next year’s intake is scheduled to begin in October, with trainees being paid a £22,000 salary while they complete a professional qualification or postgraduate course over two to two-and-a-half years.