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Forty-eight per cent of young people said they would like a career in the public sector when questioned in a survey...
Forty-eight per cent of young people said they would like a career in the public sector when questioned in a survey published by the Local Government Association.

Commissioned by the LGA, the research found that of those surveyed who had studied until 21 or over, many of whom were graduates or university students, nearly 60% said they would like to work in the public sector.

Although low pay is traditionally cited as a fundamental stumbling block for public sector recruitment, the LGA survey revealed that of those young people who said they would not want a public sector career, only 18 per cent cited low pay as their main reason.

The survey of over 700 young people is published as the LGA brings together the conclusions of its three recent seminars on the future of the public sector, held with eight partner organisations representing interests from across the sector.

A key theme to emerge from the seminars was the importance of sharing lessons from across the sector about initiatives that work to help improve services and develop a high quality workforce.

LGA leaders said the survey results were very encouraging but major challenges still lay ahead as other recent surveys (see Notes) have revealed disappointing graduate recruitment statistics for the sector.

Brian Briscoe, chief executive of the LGA, said: `Quality staff are vital in the effort to develop and deliver improvements in the public sector and I am pleased with the levels of interest from young people in the sector that has been revealed by this survey. But with graduate recruitment rates currently under 10 per cent, the challenge is to translate young people's interest into actual job applications and employment.

`We must always keep our recruitment procedures under review to ensure we are attracting the best people for the job, but the retention of quality staff is crucial and our personnel policies must be responsive to staff's needs for support and training to help ensure challenging jobs become fulfilling careers'.

Brian Briscoe continued: `We know pay is a key issue, and generally does not match that in the private sector. This is unlikely to change dramatically in the short term and public sector employers should focus on what they can deliver to their staff in the shorter term to ensure we continue to recruit the best staff.'

Councillor Ian Swithenbank, chair of the Employers' Organisation, said: 'We attend many careers events promoting local government and it is clear that we are a very popular choice among young people, especially graduates. What is needed is more local and national recruitment programmes that not only attract young people but can provide them with a structured career path.'

The LGA survey is part of a programme of work from the Association in the run up to a major national conference on September 17 entitled `A Bright Future for Public Services? Transforming the Public Sector in the New Parliament'.

The seminar is being organised in partnership with IDeA, The NHS Confederation, the National Housing Federation, The Association of Police Authorities, Unison, The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Secondary Heads Association and The GMB.

Keynote speakers include Lord Macdonald, minister for the cabinet office, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, and Richard Taylor, independent MP for Wyre Forest.


1) The survey was carried out by BMRB International in June 2001

2) The survey asked 777 young people aged 16-24 years, two questions: Would you like to work in the public sector? And, if not, why not?

3) A copy of the survey is available on the LGA website.

4) The Employer's Organisation reports that recruitment and retention problems in public sector organisations are getting worse. 84% of local authorities, for example, reported recruitment and retention difficulties with at least one occupation in the year January 2001, compared with 39% in the year to January 1997.

5) The three Chatham House seminars, A Bright Future for the Public Services?, were held in partnership with the National Housing Federation, The NHS Confederation, IDeA, GMB, The Association of Police Authorities, Unison, The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Secondary Heads Association.


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