Posted tagged ‘ngdp’

A day out with the NGDP Alumni

April 2, 2012

They do conferences too you know?!?

On Friday I tripped off to London to spend the day with alumni from the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) at the NGDP annual conference.

The title of the conference was all about serving our customers but to be honest the content was more about innovating, challenging assumptions and generally having the courage to tackle the status quo head on and deliver public services in a very different way.

We were also treated to some body language chat from guru Judi James, but more of that later.

As my colleagues did after govcamp I will detail my top takeaways below but before that I would like to make a personal comment. I’ve been finding work troubling lately. I’ve been finding it a little uninspiring and struggling to find the real energy that I used to feed off in my local government job. Therefore, I would like to thank Nick Jankel, the futuregov guys (who it was really nice to meet) and my fellow NGDPers for helping remind me of some of the amazing opportunities we still have even when things are really tough.

So, back to the conference:

Assumptions are the basis of all (most) wrong decisions

Nick Jankel’s presentation was a lot more complex than I’m about to make it seem but my big takeaway was that the best way to make better decisions is to challenge our pre-conceptions and our assumptions. Too often, we suffer from the constraints of what has always been done before and at other times our assumptions about what we are doing prevents us from coming up with any better ideas.

As Nick said (roughly):

Most failures based on assumptions that no longer fit the reality… & yet every decision/model/thought is based on assumptions.

Similarly, the futuregov guys talked about starting with blank sheets of paper to develop better ideas. Starting from scratch forces us to throw aside our assumptions and start thinking about the services people really want and the method of delivery that they also really want.

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Advice for the newbies

November 10, 2011

Don't use too many post it notes

I was trailing through our new twitter followers the other evening (@welovelocalgov by the way) when I noticed that a surprising number of them were recent entrants to the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP).

Obviously, I was delighted to see that so many new entrants to local government were a) making use, if only in a small way, of social media and b) that they were taking the time to follow the ramblings of myself and my colleagues.

With this in mind I thought it might be nice to write a post specifically for them and not being able to come up with anything more original here is my top ten tips for any new graduate:

1)      Talk to people. When I first started in local government I was scared of ALL managers. In actual fact I have discovered that if you show an interest almost every person in the authority will happily sit down with you for half an hour and chat through what they do.

2)      Work out where the money comes from. Councils are pretty complex and if you want to have a career in local government it will really help you if you understand how the council is funded. (Clue: it’s not as simple as understanding council tax!)

3)      Work out where the money goes. Understanding how the council sets a budget and how each service manager then works out, and monitors, their own budget is such a central part of being a manager that it is best to get this sorted as soon as possible. There are so many managers who don’t know how to manage their own budget, let alone how the council’s overall budget works, and it definitely holds them back.

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What future for graduates in local government?

May 24, 2011

A ticket to the corporate centre?

Last week we joined the discussion of the recently downsized National Graduate Development Programme and suggested that this was going to be the start of a big debate. Since then, Impower and Futuregov have dipped their toes in the water and today one of our readers gives her analysis of the scheme and emphasises the importance of looking beyond the corporate centre when developing, and attracting, talent in the future.

 If you would like to provide a guest post on this, or any other, topic please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve enjoyed this excellent post.

Like many across the sector, I was exasperated but not entirely surprised at the recent news that the National Graduate Development programme (NGDP) is to face major cutbacks. At a time when local authorities are implementing unprecedented public spending cuts now more than ever it is vital that the sector attracts the best possible future leaders.

Many might be asking themselves the question, in an era of cuts is attracting graduates into local government really a priority? Surely difficult choices have to be made?

No local government officer or policy maker would argue that cuts don’t need to be made; but every ‘difficult choice’ has wider ramifications that will impact upon the sector well into the future. Key stakeholders have emphasised the need to ‘avoid the road to nowhere’ and local government as a whole has now definitely reached a critical tipping point  where it must set out a vision of where it wants to be in 10 or even 20 years time. Surely, at the heart of this must be a carefully thought out strategic approach as to how the sector will attract, develop and retain the best talent in order to advance that vision?

The attraction of the NGDP was that it attracted that inflow of talent that supports local government’s drive to serve local communities in the best way it possibly can. And of course an immense sense of pride can be taken from the fact that through schemes such as the NGDP many high calibre graduates have entered and stayed in local government who in the past may have made other career choices.

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The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP)

May 12, 2011

Graduates, apply here

Word reaches us from the ever excellent Ruth Keeling at the LGC that the National Graduate Development Programme is to be dramatically scaled back.

As someone who once went through the programme I thought I’d mark this occasion with a few thoughts about the NGDP’s past and how it might have a future.

The NGDP was established, as I understand it, to provide a route into local government that was attractive to the best graduates. It would give the participants a broad experience of local government and an academic qualification that was both attractive to employers and designed to set them up well for a long career. It was meant to be a competitor to the gold-star quality Civil Service Fast Stream and in that spirit the bolder members of the NGDP team would often remark that they wanted to see a graduate of the scheme as a Local Government Chief Executive within ten years.

Graduates would spend two years working for a single local authority, using doing four six month placements in different teams, whilst also completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Local Government Management at the prestigious Warwick Business School.

So what went right? (more…)

Youth, and Local Government, is wasted on the young – Part 2

November 23, 2010

Young vs old, who will win? There's only one way to find out.....

Regular readers will no doubt have read a piece by a co-blogger last week, which made the point that local government is dominated by old people and that younger, more energetic and less fearful staff find it too difficult to get in on the action.  Of particular note were graduates, those shining stars who are destined for greatness and deserve every bit of help they can get in order to get there sooner rather than later.

Now, football and politics aside, the two of us very rarely disagree too much (although their positive take on their team’s young players will forever be a bone of contention).  However, the subject of the need for youth to triumph over experience is one on which we agree to disagree.

I feel I need to make my own position clear here, to give a little context to my comments.  I left school at 16 with some GCSEs and a few contacts, and then spent the next decade and a half slowly climbing my way up the greasy pole.  Not because I feel the burning need for power or authority, just that I’ve been in the right place at the right time on a few occasions.  I’m not at the top (far from it), but am keeping my annual salary above my age which is all I ever hope to do.

During that time I’ve worked with colleagues old and young, competent and, well, less so.  On one score I do agree that some of the brightest and best of these have been those taking part in the various graduate schemes in place (and there are a few).  However, these have not been universally great; in fact, along with some of the best, I’ve also encountered some of the worst, most over-paid, over-trained and under-skilled individuals in local government.

My major gripe is the opinion that these individuals have had, that by the sheer fact that they went to university that they are better than their peers and are owed position, power, authority and respect.  The fact that they know how to pass a course and have letters after their name has given them a degree of arrogance I’ve not seen since Cristiano Ronaldo made his way overseas.

Before I provoke cries of outrage and righteous indignation, I want to be very clear; these are in the minority.  As I said, most of these graduate have been good to excellent, although in my opinion a fair number of them are no better or worse than other colleagues who have spent the same amount of time they were studying for in a local authority.  In place of theory is practical knowledge, in place of process and best practice is experience and the knowledge of how to get things done.

In an ideal world, these graduates and other youngsters would be able to come into teams and make all of the changes necessary to turn an average service into an exceptional one.  We do not, however, inhabit such a world.  Newcomers to a team – whether they are fresh out of university or simply joining the sector for the first time – have very little practical history to draw upon, and have ideas and plans which simply will not survive the day to day grind.

Those who have been at the coal face for an extensive period of time do have such experience to draw upon, and do so on a constant basis.  These are the people who are risk averse, which is not the negative word many people describe it as; whilst little real progress is made neither are serious mistakes.  Local government is not the private sector, where the worst that happens is that a company goes bust; vulnerable people’s lives and wellbeing is at stake.  If a company doesn’t deliver its services then customers up sticks and go somewhere else to get what they want; if the public sector doesn’t deliver good enough services people have nowhere else to go and the service itself will still have to struggle through.

I’m not saying new people with fresh ideas and impetuous aren’t more than useful and more than needed.  The downside of having a bunch of people who always do things the same way is that you’ll always get the same results, and there is certainly a high degree of cynicism and negativity that can build up.  However, I think youth and vibrancy needs to be tempered and guided by those who have been there and seen all of the things being suggested tried and fail before.  The lessons learnt by doing rather than by reading about doing are invaluable, and need to be retained and valued lest we all make the same mistakes time and again.

There is also the question of appropriate positions for these graduates, who thanks to the knowledge they have worked hard to amass usually feel they should enter the workplace proper in the lower to middle management jobs.  As someone who had to work for years to get to where I am I can honestly say that there is nothing more frustrating than seeing jobs at your own and higher levels going to those with practically no experience under their belts but as many letters after their name as a man with a delayed stutter.  If they are really that much better than me then fine; experience has shown me though  that sometimes this isn’t the case.  I’m not saying I’m that good, but neither are they.

In my service area the average age is around 35, with a disproportionate number of graduates balancing out a few individuals who got their first contracts counter-signed by Churchill.  In my mind I want to see that balance maintained at all costs.  I want to see new, young, fresh graduates wanting to be part of local government and wanting to make it better, but not at the cost of those who have been doing just that for decades.

I’ll finish with a few words that might explain where I’m coming from far better than the previous few paragraphs:

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember; I do and I understand

Youth, and Local Government, is wasted on the young – Part 1

November 18, 2010

Would she want a job in Local Government?

At Welovelocalgovernment we have a mix of professions and backgrounds. Therefore, when one of us suggested writing a piece about the plight of young people in the local government workforce we decided to do it in two bits; part 1 about young people with a graduate background and part 2 about young people without a graduate background. This is Part 1.

 

I had a meeting with someone in HR the other day (unfortunately, meetings with HR nowadays tend to involve discussing the redundancy process) but before I left we had a brief chat about the age profile of local authorities.

There may be some exceptions but in my experience local authorities seem to be populated by those of us firmly rooted in middle age, if not slightly slipping into the ‘wise elder’ category. It makes me wonder how they all got here; surely these people were young once? If not, when did they join Local Government?

The central civil services certainly does not have this problem; the Fast Stream is almost famous in terms of a graduate scheme and brings through a steady stream of excellent university students, gives them five years protected tenure within the Civil Service and then lets them loose within the higher levels of the civil service. As I understand it the fast stream brings in at least 500 graduates per year who can then work their way through the management grades.

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