“Local government isn’t the place for me” is a phrase I’ve heard many times from the various MSc students I’ve met during my lectures over the past seven years. Yet, when you take the time to help them understand a bit more about the sector, they become excited and up for joining.
Which is why I was interested to read a piece in the 4 August edition of the Local Government Chronicle where Jane Robinson (Gateshead Council’s outgoing chief exec) said, “…I think it’s really important we are investing and supporting talented people coming in to the sector and working their way up to senior jobs.” All of which got me thinking about the very practical things the sector could be doing to attract a diverse range of talent from among the next generation.
- Be much more proactive in going in to schools, colleges and universities – I’m not talking about the traditional ‘let’s have a stall at a careers fair’. I’m talking about a wide variety of council staff from all levels across lots of disciplines volunteering to go in to schools and other educational institutions to talk about what they do and also bust the myth that local gov is boring. Why not set this as a target for staff? Not only do they help educate, inform and excite young people about the sector; they’ll also boost their own skills around communication, presenting and persuasion.
- Put aside places for young people at key conferences such as LGA or SOLACE – I’ve been to so many of these conferences and seminars over the years and it’s the same demographics talking to the same demographics namely those who are 40+, mainly male, and predominantly white. Why not have more speakers from among the younger generation? And why not put aside places for students who have yet to go in to the workplace – maybe offer as a prize in partnership with schools and colleges?
- More local gov people (and councils) using a wider variety of social media – there still aren’t enough using a variety of social media and using well. I’m not talking about corporate messaging, I’m talking about the personal, human and humourous touches. I also still can’t see enough councils or local gov people on Snapchat. If you think it’s not relevant, why not check out how the White House or Michelle Obama use this platform to great effect.
Of course, once new talent is in the organisation, this doesn’t deal with the issue that less people are wanting to go into the top positions (see Gaby Hinsliff’s piece in the Guardian on 5 August). This is an issue I’ll be tackling in a future post. For now, local gov needs to work harder and look at less traditional ways of getting young people from a wide variety of backgrounds interested in working in the sector.