There have been a number of discussions recently raising concerns about the future for Local Government graduate training. These range from fair questions of relevance and cost to equally valid worries about analytical and academic rigour, particularly from John Benington at Warwick.
I should declare an interest here as I am a Warwick MPA alumnus and benefited enormously from the input of the academic team and my fellow students. I should also declare a second interest as a member of the University of Hertfordshire’s business school advisory board with a particulate interest in employability. However here I am not going to mount a defence of a particular point of view, but instead set out what I think should be the criteria for a graduate scheme.
For I think there is a real need for a stretching, academically rigorous and practical programme which identifies and sustains talent and provides a foundation for future leaders in the sector’s workforce.
I would use a range of criteria to determine the way forward for this programme. I would suggest the following seven as being a good start: promoting independent thinking and providing robust analytical challenge;
developing an understanding of context and the perspectives of the private, voluntary and public sectors; securing employability by demanding that participants develop the basic skill sets needed for their future work, founded on employer engagement; fostering lifelong learning and support networks between participants; providing sufficient throughput to ensure critical mass, efficiency and a positive impact on the sector, and; affordable for organisations and individuals, with clear cost/ benefit appraisals.
To be truly accessible, any such programme should also be able to be delivered consistently at a number of venues around the country. However it should also have the highest possible currency and therefore be linked closely with the latest thinking and bear some form of accreditation from a well-regarded university. This suggests that a carefully monitored franchised brand might be a positive way forward, based on a strategic alliance.
At present I am not aware that any proposal meets all of the above. However if we are going to be able to develop talent and the potential of our people something like it will be vital for the future and needs sorting quickly.