4 January 2011

The government has made it clear that it sees a reduction in the public sector payroll to be a priority as it seeks to balance the books. The jury is out as to the real impact which will be seen as anecdotal evidence is that whilst there will be some job losses cuts are being made in third party contracts first. In the short term this will work but as “easy” cuts become exhausted there will have to be some overdue hard but necessary decisions made in town halls and government departments the length and breadth of the country.

So what is to become of those individuals deemed surplus to the public purse? Some will take the opportunity to grasp the overly generous redundancy/early retirement payments available and leave the job market, others will be moved “lock, stock and barrel” into the private sector as an outsourced service and the remainder will be at the mercy of the private sector job market.

What are the prospects for these folks – many of whom have only known the protective arms of the public employer? I would argue that for many the prospects are very good – if they can change their mindset and embrace wholeheartedly the opportunities afforded by private sector employers. From observation the main difference between the private and public sectors is that the private sector is focused on the outcome whereas the public sector places a greater emphasis on the process.

Many public sector employees have good transferable skills which can be of benefit to the dynamic employer. The challenge is for those individuals to identify and convey those skills more effectively. Most employers do not see experience in the public sector as important so a reliance on a CV which fails to explain how this can benefit a company are destined to fail. A change of attitude and an understanding of what is important to the private sector is important. A repositioning, demonstrating commercial awareness and how they present themselves, will reap its rewards – however speed is of the essence as there is a limit to the capacity of the private sector to soak up the surplus workforce.

For some this is a gilt edged opportunity to start up in business for themselves. It may be in a related area such as property management or a completely new start in the hospitality industry for example. Either way this is a real win for the individual and the economy as these new businesses will go on to create new jobs themselves. For me the best way that the government can ease the transition for public sector employees who lose their jobs is by investing in a bespoke public sector targeted business start up programme. This is surely what the Regional Growth Fund is designed for and it will be interesting to see if our political leaders have the foresight to invest in a programme which will enhance the wider economy for years to come.

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