Can there be Council Officer Prodigies?
Despite the protestations of the rest of my household, occasionally I am able to catch the odd frame or two of snooker. The recent World Championship was as interestingas the cricket world cup – brilliant for me, but also the cause of much gnashing of teeth and fights over the remote control. For those of you who didn’t follow it, newcomer Judd Trump narrowly lost in the final to multiple champion John Higgins, meaning there is a new kid on the block.
Pundits and commentators have been gushing with praise over Trump, expressing their belief that he might be one of the most naturally gifted players since Ronnie O’Sullivan turned up, and that players like them are freaks of nature with a natural ability that means they would always have turned up at the final table of tournaments, even if they had only discovered the game a few months ago.
An alternative theory however has also emerged, which describes how these snooker players and other similar world class players only got that way down to years and decades of hard work. I won’t go into the theory myself (you can read it for yourself at the BBC website) but it got me thinking about the way we introduce newcomers to the world of local government, and inspire them to be the best that they can be.
Admittedly the money involved in elite sport makes the work worthwhile, but the theory is that should a child find a sport interesting then they should be nurtured and encouraged to practice at every available opportunity, meaning they will pick up the muscle memory and spatial awareness to enable them to express themselves to a good level consistently. They will then be able to refine the bits they aren’t so good at and rise above the competition.
We don’t seem to see this with local government officers. Children in nursery schools don’t have a Council Corner, where they pretend to hold meetings and take turns being the chair, or Officer Hour where they take turns to read stories about issuing fixed pnealty notices. If they are naughty they get their name taken on the Clipboard of Shame, and if they are good the get a Beacon Sticker.
There are a small number of exceptional schemes to assist graduate get involved in local government, but usually these are never able to be accessed until university level, before then there is nothing to be done. Career advisors don’t tell children that they can be a local government officer generally, or even that it is a great thing to be. It seems that if you want to be a big shot you go into politics or business, otherwise it’s volunteering or childcare for you.
I think we should aim to make local government an aspirational career choice. Public service is attainable for most people, and the sheer range of issues dealt with by the public sector means that whatever your skills or interests, odds are that there is a role somewhere for you. If you like working with numbers then go into performance management. If you like working with people, why not try social services? If running things is more your forte, then there is a much talked about rank of middle management waiting to make use of your services.
There are a whole range of skills that those of us with children can impart to the younger generation that will help them on their local government service: leadership, teamwork, problem solving, communication, ambition, planning; all these things are core skills that will help them go far. As well as spending hours kicking a ball to each other, why not spend a little time working on inspiring an interest in getting different communities playing sport together? Next time homework is being issued, break out a little project planning know-how and show them how that would help.
I’d love to see Council worker become something that youngsters want to be when they grow up, that they want to do something which will make the lives of others better and that they realise that there are a whole world of skills that will help them get there. To see a young officer climbing the ladder to get to where they think they can do the most good and recognise that they have been honing their negotiation skills and churning our innovative ideas for making the place they live in better since they knew how to walk would be amazing.
Perhaps it might also inspire us who have already been involved for some time to be a little more proud of the work we do, knowing that we were inspiring a new generation and that people actually wanted to work for the Council.
I’m proud of my job, and I want my children to proud to say that their mum or dad works for the Council.