Issue 6

TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS MUSTN'T BE FORGOTTEN

By Dr Ian Elliott, Lecturer and Programme Leader - PgCert Public Services Governance, Queen Margaret University

We all understand the importance of training and education to support economic development. We live in an economy where knowledge is key to innovation and economic growth. But, if we truly believe that training and education can enhance economic development then our public service workers mustn’t be forgotten. Consider, for example, that 23.2% of total employment in Scotland is accounted for by the public sector. These workers are responsible for 42.7% of GDP (based on total public sector expenditure as a percentage of overall GDP in 2011-12 ). Do we really want this workforce to be under-trained or under-developed?

23.2% of total employment in Scotland is accounted for by the public sector. These workers are responsible for 42.7% of GDP

Yet according to the CIPD’s latest report on learning and talent development  over two-thirds of organisations in the public sector report their funding situation has got worse in the last 12 months (67%) - nearly twice as many as in the private sector (35%). This has had a marked impact on training and education. Whilst only 28% of private sector organisations have seen a reduction in their training budget in the public sector this figure is 52%. What’s more, public sector organisations have over the last few years typically had much lower training budgets to start with. The median training budget in the public sector is £250 per employee whereas in the private sector it is £333.

One of the many ironies in all of this is that the mantra ‘our people are our most valuable resource’ emanates from so many governmental policy and strategy documents. We are also often told that the public sector must be more business-like. Clearly neither of these platitudes stands up to much scrutiny when it comes to investment in the public service workforce. The idea of cutting training and education budgets for public service workers as part of efficiency savings is to neglect the fact that we all need trained and educated public service workers. As the public service environment becomes more complex this need for training and educational opportunities for public service workers is only likely to grow.

Whilst only 28% of private sector organisations have seen a reduction in their training budget in the public sector this figure is 52%

The last edition of Scottish Policy Now on Government, Public Services and Modernisation highlighted, in particular, the changing nature of the public sector. As noted by Professor Richard Kerley,
“The development of this new Scotland wide fire service will provide a fascinating and living example of how we reconcile budgetary pressures with ever growing public expectations of developing and common service standards across a very diverse and challenging society”. (http://www.scottishpolicynow.co.uk/article/editorial-157#sthash.WFkTXOX2.dpuf)

Certainly our public service workers are facing ever-greater pressures. Whether it is pressure from the ‘customer’; financial pressures; the pressures of partnership working; or the overarching pressure of change. How can public service workers be best supported to respond to these challenges?

The failures of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust and Morecambe Bay NHS Trust only serve to stress how critical our public services are and the often tragic consequences of failure. The reduction in training and educational opportunities on top of cuts in overall staffing levels has the potential to lead to more, as John Seddon would put it, ‘failure demand’. This is the demand that arises from mistakes to provide an appropriate service first time round and over time increases inefficiencies as more time is spent fixing problems rather than delivering the service. Given the complexities involved in delivering so many of our public services would it not be reasonable to assume that public service workers should have more (as opposed to less) training and education than their private sector counterparts?

there is a beacon of excellence which might provide some answers. In Wales the Welsh Assembly Government has established Academi Wales.

As noted within the final report of the Christie Commission,
“There is a temptation when budgets are constrained to limit investment in training and professional development. However, we believe strongly that the necessary ground shift in public service delivery will only be successful if staff feel empowered, trusted and supported to make the necessary changes.” (Christie, 2011: 38)

Private sector organisations have faced significant financial challenges since the 2008 recession. Yet as the CIPD research shows they have retained much of their training and education budgets. Clearly many of these organisations recognize the importance of training and education of staff even in the toughest financial climate. Yet two years on from the publication of the final Christie Commission report how might this goal be fully realised in the public sector?

I have raised three important questions. In doing so this might all start to seem rather pessimistic. However, there is a beacon of excellence which might provide some answers. In Wales the Welsh Assembly Government has established Academi Wales. This is a national centre for leadership programmes, services and resources from across the Welsh public sector. I must declare an interest here as we have recently partnered with Academi Wales to deliver our PgCert Public Services Governance to 21 public servants in Wales. However, this body demonstrates what can be achieved within constrained resources to promote opportunities to learn, share good practices and develop important networks across public bodies.

Scotland is in the fortunate position of having 15 Higher Education Institutions and 32 Further Education Institutions. Undoubtedly part of the solution lies in more of these educational institutions working with employers. But at the same time employers need to be reciprocal and willing to invest in the development of their workforces. The latest spending review confirms that we will see public service cuts lasting into the next decade though it is yet to be seen if these cuts will be realised. In this context it is crucial that, whatever happens, all public bodies must do what they can to protect the training and education of their workforces – after all the future of our public services, and a significant part of the Scottish economy, is in their hands.

To find out more about the postgraduate certificate in public services governance please contact: Dr Ian Elliott, Programme Leader, ielliott@qmu.ac.uk Or visit our website: http://qr.net/publicservices


By Dr Ian Elliott, Lecturer and Programme Leader - PgCert Public Services Governance, Queen Margaret University

Issue 6

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