The department announced yesterday that organisations could apply to deliver parts of the programme, which will be worth a total of up to £200m over two years. Nineteen contracts will be available to supply a minimum of 1,500 places each.
The programme, in which school-leavers take part in seven or eight-week projects that include community work, a physical challenge and a residential placement, is due to expand over the next two years. Up to 30,000 places are available this year, with 60,000 in 2013 and up to 90,000 in 2014.
The Challenge Network is the largest individual provider of the programme this year. The organisation, which was co-founded by the Conservative peer and former big society adviser Lord Wei, will be paid more than £7m to deliver the scheme in 51 of the 144 local authority areas in which it is being run.
A statement from the Cabinet Office said it expected organisations to form partnerships to deliver the next stage of the programme and that bids would come from regional consortia.
Tenders must be received by the Department for Education by noon on 29 June and providers will be expected to be in place by September, the Cabinet Office said. Contracts could be extended into 2015, subject to performance, it said.
Organisations interested in forming partnerships to bid for work are being advised to use the NCS website.
Documents can be downloaded from the DfE website.