It seems likely that that far more jobs will be lost in the UK public sector than the original 400,000 predicted in the Coalition Government’s austerity budget. Local government has had to bear the brunt with c.150,000 redundancies, but other sectors including health and education will no doubt trim their workforces in order to cope with the required efficiencies.
Many of these redundancies – voluntarily or otherwise – have resulted in slimmed down senior management teams with those surviving the cull taking on broader service portfolios and remits. Many organisations have seen their Assistant Director or Head of Service level posts (or equivalent) halved in the last twelve months. Some of these people have moved into interim management and consultancy, some are still job seeking but some have left the sector altogether.
With senior managers now doing two or more jobs, middle managers leaving the sector and no new blood coming up from grassroots, where will the skills come from to lead public sector organisations in the future? And more worryingly, with local government slipping down the list of top graduate employment destinations where is the next generation of middle managers?
Is there a ticking skills shortage time bomb in the sector?
We know that the changes we have seen in the last 18 months were driven by a once in a lifetime financial crisis, but they have instilled in all areas of public sector – once and for all some may say – that change is now the norm. And without new talent, new ways of working and those that can embrace new technology how can it ever sustain such change?
The view at Berwick Partners is that the skills to deliver public services in the future are already in public services. There are no barriers between local government, health, education, housing and the voluntary sector anymore. Coalition Government Policy, the financial imperative and the need to change right now mean that public service is getting closer than it ever has.
“If you are hiring, do you really see significant differences between a senior manager from a hospital to a Town Hall to a college? Aren’t they all facing the same financial challenges? Don’t they have the same customers? Don’t they all need to change in order to survive?” asks Nick Cole from Berwick Partners.
Perhaps the public sector now has a once in a lifetime opportunity to move key skills across old barriers and retain talent for the future within its wider ranks.
We should all be behind the sector rather than the segments.