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IfG calls for renewed effort to build Civil Service skills

22/04/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The government needs to take steps to build digital and technical skills in the Civil Service, according to a new thinktank report.

Digital icons over typing fingers

The Institute for Government (IfG) has published the report, Finding the right skills for the Civil Service, emphasising its relevance for these sectors and in response to a commitment from the prime minister, announced in summer 2019, to make reform of the Civil Service a priority issue.

It says some progress has been made in improving skills in recent years, but these are under-used due to poor data, that responsibility for skills development is fragmented, managers are not held to account for developing their teams, and there are barriers to attracting the right people.

In response, the IfG makes a series of recommendations, including that there should be a strategy for the skills needed covering data, digital, finance, procurement and portfolio management.

Along with that is a need to build data on skills, create more multi-disciplinary teams, make managers more accountable for their development, create an approach to personal development that emphasises core skills, and increase the deployment of skills from the wider public sector.

The latter move would involve bringing in more senior people from police, healthcare and local government, and the creation of more routes for exchanging people between the sectors.

More could also be done to promote a period of working in government to the private sector, although the IfG acknowledges the need for clear ethical safeguards, and to ensure that pay and pension arrangements do not provide barriers.

Make a difference

“Good government needs civil servants with the right skills to develop and implement its priorities and ultimately to make a difference to citizens’ lives,” the report says.

“Without the expertise to deliver high quality policy advice to ministers, to negotiate contracts or to implement services or major projects, government cannot work effectively.

“Shortcomings in the skills of civil servants can lead to public money being wasted and undermine confidence in government.”

Image from iStock, amyaberkut

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