New APS professional stream to lift data capability across workforce

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday September 16, 2020

Peter Woolcott. Image: Australian Public Service Commission.

The Australian Public Service Commission has launched its awaited data professional stream and strategy.

Commissioner Peter Woolcott on Wednesday said the program would help public servants further develop their data skills, supporting better decision making in government.

“The data professional stream is grounded in a strategy to lift the data capability of the APS workforce, to generate deeper insights, inform evidence-based decisions and enable more effective service delivery,” he said.

Woolcott also flagged plans to identify and grow talent, increase mobility across data roles, and build diversity into data roles through a number of initiatives, including:

  • Getting it right from the start by looking at how to attract talent to the APS, lift entry level skills and create the diversity profile of people in data roles,
  • Developing sophisticated and specialist capabilities by identifying and promoting learning and development opportunities and designing data role profiles,
  • Embedding a professional workforce by building career pathways, professional communities, and professional standards.

Read more: Commissioner reveals next professional stream as APS looks to increased use of data

Australian Statistician Dr David Gruen was named head of the data profession in June. He said the role would see him champion good use of data, promote support for the strategy, and deliver a program of work that “brings the strategy to life”.

“The APS has long recognised the value of good data and its role in effective decision making,” he said.

“The launch of the data professional stream is a strong statement of the importance the APS places on making sure that we provide a service-wide approach to continually lifting the capability of our data users and data professionals, while attracting and retaining the best talent possible.”

The use of data has proven crucial to government decision makers during COVID-19, which was recently highlighted by Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens. His department set up a data analytics team early on in the pandemic, and compiled and analysed COVID-19 data from across jurisdictions, as well as from the private sector and overseas.

The data profession is the third professional stream for the APS. The Australian Taxation Office’s chief operating officer, Jacqui Curtis, was named head of the HR professional stream last October, while Digital Transformation Agency head Randall Brugeaud was appointed digital head of profession earlier this year.

Brugeaud noted the data and digital professional stream teams have been working on career pathways which would allow professionals from each group to move between disciplines throughout their careers.

“We’ve started to define a set of professional standards that will be aligned while at the same time recognising the differences between data and digital,” he said.

“And we’ve also started to consider the specialist training and support that we might be able to provide to our members.”

The reforms, which aim to address capability gaps across a number of professions, have been inspired and informed by international best practice in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Singapore.

Read more: Towards a professional approach to public policy: reforming people instead of structure and process


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