Skills shortages exposed in public sector survey

Skills shortages in the public sector have, in part, been caused by poor systems that have not produced internal candidates to fill positions, an HR expert has claimed.

Mike Emmot, CIPD employee relations advisor, told Personnel Today that he was not surprised by a survey which revealed that 80% of public sector organisations believe skills shortages would be best filled by private sector workers.

Of 300 public sector organisations polled by recruitment firm Hays, more than half were concerned about a shortage of management skills in the public sector.

And 61% believed private sector candidates would bring commercial expertise with them.

Emmott said: “Over this past decade the public sector has been making a conscious attempt to professionalise. In the short-term that has meant looking for private sector people with professional qualifications.

“It’s not a big surprise that they are looking to fill jobs from the private sector. It’s not a reflection on the quality of people. It’s a reflection on the fact that the systems have not produced their own internal candidates for many specialist jobs.”

Richard Crouch, head of HR and organisational development at Somerset County Council, said succession planning for posts in social care, occupational therapy and planning had always been difficult.

A number of local authorities are actively trying to recruit people who have come from a faster-moving industry. “They are looking for those skills which are more business-focused, in terms of cost-recovery and efficiency, lean systems and process re-engineering,” he said.

The survey also identified that more workers were ready to change sectors, with nearly two-thirds of employers confirming they had noticed an upturn in applications from the private sector.

Julie Cudmore, personnel manager at Kent County Council’s adult social services department, said she had seen increase in such applications.

“The public sector is perceived to offer greater stability at the moment, and that’s important to people,” she said. “A lot of people are looking for job satisfaction and a better work-life balance over just pay and salaries.”

However, Roger Russell, managing partner at executive recruitment consultancy Veredus, said that motives for the move from the private to public sector employment are many and varied, and those in lower- to middle-management may be looking at a change opportunistically.

“As the economy increases in terms of confidence and returns to a more stable position, it may well be that some of those individuals will look to the private sector if salary levels are higher,” he added.

Last week recruitment agencies warned skills shortages across both the private and public sectors could damage organisations’ ability to compete in the upturn.

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