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Reform Options

4.1 Implement a shared state and local government workforce development strategy

In the absence of shared strategies, councils and the State Government can compete with each other and the private sector for staff, driving up costs without addressing skill shortages. They also risk duplicating workforce training, development, and recruitment efforts, when the cost of delivery could be shared.

A workforce strategy that recognises the common skills required to work in councils and/or in State Government should minimise unintended competition between the sectors and provide more attractive career pathways for employees within both spheres of government. The workforce strategy should also recognise the skill needs of individual councils based on their local functional and service requirements.

  • There is broad support for this option.
  • Previous workforce strategies should be reviewed to understand what has changed and why, what was applied and worked, or why actions were not pursued or did not gain traction.
  • Innovative approaches are required. These might include embracing flexible modes of working, internships, apprenticeships, secondments and cadetships, connecting with TAFE, universities, and secondary schools to help students understand the value proposition and potential career pathways local government can offer.
  • It requires a collaborative, sector-wide approach.
  • Training local people in regional communities has been shown to enable people to stay in regions.
  • Smaller and remote councils need greater assistance in this area.
  • Local government career pathways need better articulation, framing and a positive narrative.
  • 62% of Tasmanians under 45 surveyed noted they would not consider a career in local government for a number of reasons, including perceptions of poor workforce cultures, poor resourcing of their council, and perceptions that the size of their council may limit their ability to effect change.

We can learn from looking at workforce plans from other industry areas and their capability frameworks.

The Independent Review of the State Service noted that there are many similarities between the roles undertaken in local government and the Tasmanian State Service, such as administration, public health, finance, emergency management, engineering, and construction. There are also areas in both tiers of government that would benefit from closer collaboration, such as the provision and delivery of contemporary services for Tasmanians. That Review also acknowledged that the secondment of Tasmanian Government staff to partner organisations (such as councils) could help to identify where efficiencies could be made and new and improved ways of working together.

The Cradle Coast Authority (CCA) recently undertook a local government school-based apprentice project, which was funded by the Australian Government and supported by the State Government. This project saw the CCA work with member councils and schools in North West Tasmania to support younger people into career pathways and develop the local government workforce in regional areas. These projects can help to build the profile of the sector as a viable and meaningful career pathway for younger Tasmanians, and help to retain young people, particularly in regional areas.

4.2 Target key skills shortages, such as planners, in a sector-wide or shared State/local government workforce plan

Given the serious shortages of such skills across the two sectors, a targeted workforce plan could:

  • address capacity gaps across the whole State and local government regulatory system;
  • provide more attractive career pathways for professionals;
  • allow for succession planning within both spheres of government;
  • support the training and development of a new category of para-professionals to undertake less complex tasks;
  • minimise the competition between the two tiers of government and the private sector for staff;
  • reduce duplication of workforce training, development, and recruitment efforts.
  • There was strong support for this option: ‘a proactive not a reactive approach is required’.
  • Local government as a career pathway needs better articulation, framing, and a positive narrative.
  • Needs to be embedded with State Government and education providers, such as the University of Tasmania.

There is strong and consistent evidence of an international skills shortage affecting councils’ abilities to perform their regulatory functions. In response, local government workforce initiatives have been implemented in many countries.

4.3 Establish virtual regional teams of regulatory staff to provide a shared regulatory capability

Regulatory staff from councils across a region could form a virtual team that supports some or all councils and leverages combined capability. The team could include planning officers, environmental health officers, and other specialist staff. All regulatory responsibilities would remain with councils, and staff would remain physically located in their councils. A proportion of the team’s time would be used for predictable regular services for their ‘home’ councils, such as pre-lodgement liaison with proponents and assessing and determining routine development applications. When required, team members could be assigned to more complex and intermittent work from across the region.

  • This approach was preferred to removing staff from councils and consolidating them in a co-located team, as this would erode core capacity within the individual councils.
  • This would be useful when councils need access to planned or unexpected ‘surge capacity’.
  • The option may be operationally challenging given current workforce shortages.

This option may be less beneficial if the structural reform of moving to fewer, larger councils is undertaken.

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