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The future of the NGDP - comments

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Five people with an active interest on the development of the NGDP told responded to a blog by Carrie Bishop…

Malcolm Craig, Programme Manager at LGID

As the instigator and builder of the scheme in 2001 and the manager since, my personal views are as follows. This is not sour grapes as the whole NGDP team have been made redundant but part of the effort to protect the future of the programme for everyone’s benefit: 1. The programme has achieved its initial goals in introducing networked groups of people to the sector who have the “potential” to contribute to significant change and will challenge the status quo. Retention is high and some of you are now in senior roles which is great. Many of you would not otherwise have been part of the sector. It has also, I think, achieved the goal of getting local authorities to think differently about talent management and retention. 2. The role of participating local authorities as the employers is key and it is clear that some trainees have struggled within their own local boundaries to make an impact, or live up to the wider programme exepectations. 3. The ngdp reached a cross roads 2 years ago when the sector really needed to decide what it wanted the ngdp to be – either elitist delivering “only” 80 per year to the sector or more generally available to a wider range of authorities through a different model, perhaps recruitment only. The cross roads passed-by for a variety of technical, procurement and beaurocratic reasons – but not without effort and pressure for change from my team. 4. The whole ngdp discussion has been clouded by the Warwick cost issue – the diploma served a purpose in the past and had great marketing impact but it was only one part of the overall programme. Local authority placements and the national training interventions were also a key part of the programme success. Warwick is not affordable now unless another way can be found to fund it. 5. We need to remember that we continue to deliver quality people to the sector at the lowest cost per hire of any equivalent sized programme and we should not lose our ability to continue to do this. 6. What we need to change now is :- the approach to programme funding to reduce over reliance on central “subsidy”; have a more innovative approach to learning and development and to leverage much more from our alumni.

Matthew Skinner, Policy Equalities and Performance Officer, Lambeth LBC

I share in your view that local government needs a new breed of innovators if it is to meet the enormity of challenges faced in the foreseeable future - the age of middle managers is in decline. Personally the biggest advantage of the NGDP has been the contacts that I have made either through other graduates on the programme (in authorities across the country) or locally having rotated across multiple departments and working on projects with various external partners. Being able to utilise the position of ‘Graduate Management Trainee’ to get experience and to push boundaries is probably both the unique selling point and irritation (constantly being referred to as the ‘graduate’) of the scheme. The network of friends and colleagues I have developed has been invaluable on all projects that I have managed throughout my time in local government. The networks I have been developing on social media sites are also helping me to push outside of those boundaries to challenge the status quo and share innovative ideas. Networking and experimentation of ideas needs to be at the ethos of any new scheme, leadership over management is also essential. In my view what absolutely cannot happen is to leave local government without a joined up graduate entry programme.

Anthony Zacharzewski, Democratic Society

I went through the civil service’s graduate scheme in the late 90s before having a couple of NGDP people in my team when working at Brighton and Hove, and my thoughts are: 1. The civil service graduate scheme, though no more imaginative in its overall outlook than the NGDP, deliberately tried to inculcate a sort of civil service esprit de corps. I never got the sense that the NGDP started from “what are we here for”. 2. The NGDP academic element was just a distraction, as far as I could see. Kill it off. Let people learn about their work, not theory. 3. I love the idea of getting out into partner organisations and seeing it as a local public services development programme, and the idea of putting innovation as one of its main planks. The corollary might be local public services getting more serious about their own innovation capacity, and localising some of the thinking that is currently carried out by the LGA or thinktanks. 4. I think there could be much more crossover between local and central government schemes. It’s not good for anyone that local and central government are two separate cultures, each with a pretty dim view of the other. 5. The one area where I think that the idea needs development is in how it balances the programme, and allows for people to whom innovative thinking doesn’t come easily. I wouldn’t want to ditch the safe-hand-generating NGDP, and then find we’ve turned off conservative-minded or less confident potential entrants by creating a programme with a reputation of being only for high-powered ideas whizzes.

Alex Khaldi, director, iMPOWER

1. A significantly lower cost academic and staffing solution – we need the books opened up so we can see how this would be achieved 2. Use of private sector (managed services and consultancy firms) 3. Opening up dialogue with Civil Service and NHS schemes for potential integration 4. Extending the franchise – doubling the number of councils involved 5. Much greater ownership from participating councils (owned by the sector, not LGID, with core staff based at lead councils). Potential for social enterprise structure as a sustainable model 6.A new financial instrument – potential reworking of payment by councils on performance and retention of individuals tied to an understanding of what financial support can be guaranteed for the medium term 7. Delivery innovation – this is something you are making a massive contribution to and I would like to see more consultation with grads and stakeholders about this Where we (might) diverge is on two points: Firstly, I am not sure a diploma is needed but an academic underpinning is, for me, important. This would be a useful debate to have with you as I think the extent and type of this component could be much more modern and flexible Secondly, and more importantly, I believe the LGA/LGID must be involved in re-setting the strategy. It is not simply that their sponsorship is important but it is also their responsibility to look after the long term talent management in the sector. Whilst I think the solution should be semi-detached from LGID I feel we need constructive dialogue with them about a fresh approach.

Reema Patel, Fast Track Manager, Essex CC

If something like WBS is going to be on the agenda, it really does need to be something that ties into work at local authorities and generates value for money. The best thing about WBS isn’t the course, it’s the fact you sit there for three days debating and discussing key policy issues with your counterparts across the country. It can be a real eye opener – and a prompt for shared good practice (over the dinner table, perhaps). So if it’s possible to keep that, and perhaps a venue for debate on topical issues or shared presentations, that would be brilliant. Often they got in chief executives and councillors/lead members – and these were by far and away the best bits. For many people this is the only opportunity they get to learn about the political aspect of local authorities. Those facets should be kept, and developed. In terms of the theoretical learning specifically, I do think there is need for theoretical learning but that this should take place within LAs. In terms of theoretical training, I do think all graduates should gain a basic understanding of local authority governance (so they understand the landscape of what they are working with); an understanding of the political side of local authorities; an understanding of how to develop proper LA policy in a ‘service’ area; some training in project and change management (including stakeholder management); some training in business process improvement methodologies including LEAN/Six Sigma. All of this would be more useful than WBS. These are the skills that will equip graduates to play that ‘innovative challenger’ role that you envisage.

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