21st public service: changing education and recruitment

A Melbourne School of Government report examines the future of the public service workforce. In the final summary for The Mandarin, implications on education, development and recruitment.

2014-12-04_10-36-45Much has been written about the idea that public services and the public service workforce of the future will look quite different from that of the present. In previous pieces in The Mandarin, we have argued that it is important that public services have a clear vision of what they might look like and set out our own version of this which puts far more of an emphasis of “softer” roles and skills.

Regardless of whether you buy into the version of the future that we set out in the report, if the roles and skills of future public servants are to look different, there are clearly implications in terms of education, development and recruitment practices. We argue more attention needs to be paid to workforce planning and management practices if we are to get the most out of the future public service workforce.

On the whole those we interviewed for this research were positive about the array of different opportunities that are available for public servants. There are a vast range of formal education and training opportunities that cover all manner of different learning and development opportunities, although some expressed concern that access to these often remains reliant on the quality of people management. Many described people management skills as inconsistent across public services and believe this has a large impact on what we are able to get from the public service workforce.

In terms of the balance between formal education, training and on-the-job training, many referred to the 70-20-10 principle: where 70% of learning is done on the job, 20% is through feedback and 10% formal learning. In practice most felt this was not the experience of every public servant. Gaps in skills and abilities tend to be filled by education and training opportunities outside of the organisational context and do not always afford the opportunity to practice the particular skill or capability they are aiming to improve.

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