With half of councils struggling to recruit planners and facing difficulties finding other key professionals in ICT and legal, the LGA and the Government Equalities Office have expanded a national programme to provide free training for returners.
Councils and their staff are at the forefront of driving innovative change to benefit and support local communities.
Yet 55 per cent of councils that responded to an LGA survey reported that they have difficulties recruiting planners, while 24 per cent and 17 per cent struggled to recruit legal staff and ICT professionals, respectively.
In response, we have launched a new set of recruitment campaigns with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to help councils match their vacancies with people looking to return to their careers.
The three Return to Work campaigns – focusing on ICT, planning and legal – will identify skilled professionals and provide them with free training or resources, so they can restart their highly valued roles and support councils with their COVID-19 recovery strategies.
Councils who sign up to the free programme will be given the chance to connect with a carefully selected pool of participants to discuss job vacancies.
As local authorities look to recover from COVID-19, we will complete the recruitment of professionals for them so they can focus on their response to the pandemic until a suitable time to interview and select one of our candidates.
Councils that sign up will also have the added benefit of avoiding costs associated with recruitment drives and hiring agency staff, which cost councils £335 million in 2017/18.
With funding provided by the GEO, the campaigns aim to support those who have taken extended career breaks to care for someone.
The programme will also consider applications from professionals who have caring responsibilities and have become unemployed because of COVID-19, or from those who have been in long-term unemployment with no caring commitments.
Many people who take career breaks to care for someone struggle to step back into their profession at the right level for their skills and experience. When they do return, they can have a positive impact on diversifying organisations.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 89 per cent of people who are out of paid work because of caring responsibilities are female. A large number of these women have professional and managerial experience.
Hiring ‘returners’ can therefore help you expand your female talent pipeline, boost the presence of women in your management teams, and have a positive effect on your gender pay gap. Your age diversity would also be positively impacted, as returners bring with them high levels of experience, maturity and commitment.
Employing a returner can also have a positive impact on your image as an employer, signalling that you are a flexible organisation that supports parents and carers in the workplace.
It can also show that your organisation is open to and accepting of non-linear career pathways and values the role that caring plays in society. These images play a key role in both the recruitment and retention of talented employees.
Our expertly created programmes will support people to gain the skills, confidence and knowledge they need to work in ICT, planning or legal professions, and to shape the areas where they live.
Richard Carr is Chair of the Local Government Delivery Council and Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council
Return to Work is a great opportunity for councils to access the skills they need in ICT.
We know that ICT skills are at a premium, not just in our sector but in other parts of industry. This is a way to encourage people to come back to local government.
Having someone who has more rounded experience and life experience and has then taken the trouble to refresh their ICT expertise, it seems like a win-win to me.
Working with returners also adds to the diversity of our workforce and we know that with diversity comes the ingredients for greater innovation. So for all those reasons, it’s a great programme and it’s free so why wouldn’t you want to participate?
Apart from the people (who are an amazing bunch of characters and unbelievably knowledgeable), my favourite thing about working in council ICT is that the job is so interesting, and I am constantly learning new skills.
There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. It’s given me a massive confidence boost realising that I can still learn new skills.
Councils are also really good employers to work for, they always try to ensure that you have a good work-life balance and are treated fairly within the workplace. They have also given me lots of tools and training to help me in the role.
Becky, IT Officer
I took a career break in 2013 to concentrate on family life. A year later I decided that a ‘stay-at-home’ mum life was not for me and I started to pursue a return to work.
It was a difficult decision as I knew that as a working mum, I would have the tricky balance of trying to make time for my daughter while also delivering the work agenda and I would be very ‘tired’!
I found returning to a local authority provided me with a supportive environment, allowing me to take time off around my childcare commitments. As soon as I stepped back into this world there were great people, interesting projects to work on and a genuine enthusiasm to support me in brushing up my knowledge and skill set.
Amanda, Senior Planner
I left the planning profession to have my children and to focus on my home life for a bit. I’m also disabled and both my pregnancies affected my disability so I ended up taking just under three years out of work.
I decided to come back because I like to think I have a good work ethic and wanted to show my daughters that working is an important part of self-worth. I also craved some adult conversation – anything other than repetitively singing ‘Wind the bobbin up’!
It can be daunting returning after an absence, especially if (like me) you are also taking on a new stage in your home life (becoming a parent). But recently councils have been leading the way in supporting flexible approaches to working life.
Shelly, Principal Planner