Opportunity knocks: why the public sector is the place to work right now

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2017

Caroline Nugent, president of the Public Services People Managers’ Association (PPMA) and director of HR & OD at oneSource, London Boroughs of Havering & Newham (pictured), on why the public sector remains a unique place where people can put their skills and knowledge to work and take responsibility for solving big problems.

With no end to austerity measures in sight and an uncertain, post-election, Brexit-focused political landscape taking shape, it is fair to say that the public sector is currently in a permanent state of flux.

At the same time, and partly because of this, public servants are having to deliver a once-in-a-generation reshaping of the way the sector works, which means there is more of a need than ever to attract and retain people who have the fresh thinking and new skills to achieve this.

The challenges faced by the public sector workforce and their HR teams are therefore certainly great, but the opportunities are arguably even greater.

For senior managers and leaders who are keen to take on the extra responsibility, there is a chance to be directly involved in and make a real impact on the changes and the redesign of the service in a meaningful and constructive way.

Working with such severe budget cuts makes it necessary to be challenging to process and innovative about change in a way that is rarely seen in the private sector, resulting in a unique set of skills and an exceptional CV.

Similarly, the strong focus by HR and OD on nurturing and developing talent at entry level to safeguard the future of the sector provides a great opportunity for young people to make a positive career choice with the prospect of good progression.

While funds for training in the traditional sense may be limited, shadowing opportunities and learning on the job means entry-level staff gain invaluable exposure to senior staff and benefit from their years of experience, knowledge and expertise.

Acting as a springboard for a meaningful career, an apprenticeship in the public sector can set young people up for life, with benefits that make it an overall attractive and favourable proposition.

Those with the right attitude and aptitude can dive right in at the deep end, with much less time spent carrying out the more menial duties associated with junior roles. This is in contrast to many areas of the private sector, where junior staff are expected to work long hours for little reward and prospects are generally limited and short term.


Support from the PPMA

The PPMA’s talent development programmes – HR Star, Peer into the Future and Apprenticeship of the Year – are all about building and celebrating the public sector HR workforce of the future.

Since its launch in 2012, Rising Stars has been on an incredible journey to seek out and actively shine a spotlight on the HR leaders of tomorrow. In that time, four champions have been chosen from more than 60 participants and the talent on display has been genuinely inspiring.

Over half of our Rising Stars have gone on to more senior roles. The Rising Stars programme has evolved from being a side show at the annual PPMA Seminar to an integral part of the event and a highlight of the year. The energy, passion and confidence of the young candidates has inspired us to extend the offer to colleagues at different stages of their career.

We have seen at least two appointments so far into director positions from our Peer into the Future programme. These workshops are designed to allow more established HR professionals to do exactly that by giving them the space and time to properly reflect on the future of their organisation and their role within it. The programme is co-facilitated by the PPMA and Penna with real-world inputs from a diverse range of experienced HR/OD directors, chief executives and senior subject matter experts from multiple sectors.

Apprenticeships with on-the-job training and great prospects for advancement are an essential focus of our talent development programme, as this is where we can really help to mould and safeguard the public sector workforce of the future. Our Apprentice of the Year Award recognises the most exceptional, committed and promising young public servants with the brightest future in the sector.

The public sector is a unique place where people can put their skills and knowledge to work and take responsibility for solving big problems that affect the quality of life of everyone in our communities. It is our duty to nurture and celebrate HR talent from within at each stage of the journey to ensure the sector remains dynamic, effective and fit for purpose now and in the future.


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