Last week, at a council where I am currently working, I had a meeting with one of their new NGDP-ers (a graduate who had just started on the National Graduate Development Programme). It was BRILLIANT.
She had just been placed on a project, her first placement, which aims to completely overhaul children’s services in the borough in the wake of a poor OFSTED review. Enough for the most steely of us to feel slightly stressed, out of our depth or disheartened. Instead, I was enthused by her passion for public services, her in depth understanding of what needed to be done and how to overcome barriers to get there, combined with no small appreciation of the risks and legalities surrounding such a project.
As a fairly recent graduate myself, and a complete local government aficionado who spent my university holidays organising LEP conferences and researching alternative models of service delivery, I lamented the slash of NGDP places we have witnessed since the start of the recession (the graduate cohort almost halved in the years 2010-12) for two reasons.
Firstly, like everyone else in the industry, I worried that the sector was – after years of trying to attract top graduates who would previously have leaned towards the Civil Service – cutting off an important source of talent, enthusiasm and creativity. This would impact hugely on the shape of future managerial leadership, and thus the very nature and perception of the sector itself.
Secondly, perhaps selfishly, I wanted a group of peers to journey through my career with. I wanted to build my own network of contacts, of people with similar interests to me, (dare I say?) friends. Too often I attend industry events or conferences where I am by far the youngest person in the room. Of course, it is interesting and useful to learn from others who are at different stages in their career and have a wealth of experience to go with it. However, as Andy pointed out in his post earlier this week, the beauty of getting together at industry events is to discuss issues we are all facing, and share innovative ways of tackling them. It is to learn from each other as we face similar challenges.
I therefore welcome the recent news that the NGDP cohort is back to its pre recession size. But, more than that, I think we bright young things need to take this opportunity to proactively seek each other out – to share ideas and ambitions for change and build lasting relationships in the same way our more senior colleagues do with their peers.
So, this has the potential to be a bit embarrassing:
I am a young, ambitious, recent graduate working in and passionate about local government, and the wider public sector. I would like to meet people with a similar profile to mine. I would like to meet lots of them, and maybe start an informal network who meet regularly, outside of office hours or within them, and at a location to suit, and probably with pizza. If this sounds like you, get in touch. Call me, maybe?