The ABC recently reported that “Commonwealth spending on consulting and labour-hire firms now exceeds $5 billion a year.” Read the full story here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-10/contractors-and-the-public-service-gig-economy/12647956
Tanner James is acutely aware of this situation. For more than two decades, our business has revolved around training and coaching federal government employees (in fact we’ve trained more than 15,000 staff).
However, in recent years, the demand for our services has fallen dramatically – we’ve observed that the Australian Public Service (APS) is less and less likely to turn to training organisation’s like ourselves for nurturing its internal capability. Instead, there is a distinct preference to address skills shortages through the labour-hire market. Temporarily buying-in people (as a commodity) to address skills gaps rather than investing in its permanent workforce.
For example, “Today, Defence employs about 17,400 public servants. However, its outsourced civilian workforce is far larger than that — documents published under freedom of information (FOI) law show it has about 28,600 contractors.”
What’s wrong with this model? – as a short-term measure, nothing. In fact, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a very sensible approach and should be encouraged. Now is not the time for the APS to procrastinate over such things. Nor is it the time for protracted recruitment processes to on-board permanent staff. Our nation’s economy has been crippled by the pandemic and government spending is crucial to successfully navigating through these uncertain times – where it is practical to do so, the government must create jobs as rapidly as possible and labour-hire arrangements can support these efforts very effectively.
However, in the long-term, this situation presents a massive risk for our nation. With a shrinking investment in the skills and knowledge base of its permanent workforce, the APS will eventually be so reliant on external contractors that it will have lost its ability to function independently.
We think there is a simple solution that will create new jobs for Australians at a time when they’re needed most and also act to reverse what is a declining capability in the APS ranks.
The APS permanent staff number is about 150,000 (147,237 as at June 2019).
One of the few benefits of COVID-19 is that it has shown people enjoy flexible working. This presents an opportunity. Time is the new money. Many people would enjoy reduced hours.
If just 5% of the current permanent workforce agree to adopt a 4-day working week, the saving in salaries could then be used to fund more than 1,000 new APS jobs. New blood will help to create a stronger and more dynamic APS.
We believe the people in these new jobs should be carefully inducted. At the outset they must be equipped with the right management knowledge. As they put new skills into practice they should be regularly mentored and coached, and from time-to-time rotated across the APS to ensure their experience and knowledge is shared.
Here at Tanner James, we would love to contribute to building this better APS. We can help with:
- Virtual classroom learning – of contemporary best practices including program management, project management and agile ways of working.
- Fast-paced, practical implementation – supported and in partnership with the not for profit sector.
- Placements within the private sector – exposing new APS employees to a high performing team culture.
- Continuing Professional Education and Coaching Services.