Giving the NGDP a practical emphasis
13 October 2011 | By Pascoe Sawyers
In designing a new learning and development course for the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) we have focused on creating something which will provide our graduates with the practical skills they will need to thrive as senior managers in the local government sector.
The changes, when originally reported by LGC, were framed as being about budget cuts – but our new approach is more about ensuring that our trainees are fully fit for purpose for the needs of local government going forward as well as delivering the programme as efficiently as possible.
We are refocusing on an approach which is much more about giving our trainees the opportunity to explore and experience challenges faced by local government from a ‘real world’ perspective.
During five two-day residential modules, which will provide the networking and face-to-face time that past trainees said was so important, our graduates will learn how to tackle real-life issues and build essential personal leadership skills.
As well as an initial induction event, which will focus on introducing them to local government, the modules will be themed around working in a political environment; communication and engagement; managing the business; and personal development.
We are working on the detailed design of the curriculum for these modules, but we have a clear sense of the ground each one will cover.
To give a flavour of this, the political environment module will include practical sessions on developing political awareness, member officer relationships, partnership working and negotiation and influencing skills.
The third module on communication will pick up on some of the critical thinking around using social media to achieve better engagement with residents and staff, strategies for improving customer insight and fresh approaches to encouraging behaviour change.
Trainees will also get opportunities to improve presentation skills and work on tactics to raise their profile as a leader within their organisation and within the sector.
Exploring the issue of shared services with our trainees is a priority. This is a complex but critical area going forward. How does one chief executive manage three different authorities, or a director manages services across several different councils?
We need to spend some time making sure that our future officer corps leaders can manage these situations. This is one of several topics that will be looked at in the module on managing the business.
We are in the process of commissioning experts to deliver these modules and we are confident that the opportunity to work with our graduate trainees will attract bids from some of the best in the business.
Other key elements of the programme will also directly involve serving councillors and senior council officers who are dealing with the critical issues on a daily basis.
We have spoken to existing and former trainees about what they want and found valuable, now we need to focus on what councils need from the programme.
What attributes do they need future leaders to bring? Should the emphasis be on delivery, operational or policy skills? Will future leaders need to be generalists or specialists?
This year we have 47 graduates starting the programme – but there needs to be many more. In an ideal world there should be a couple of hundred graduates each year entering local government through the NGDP. The sector is facing a tough time, money is tight and councils are managing massive changes, but that is exactly when we need to invest in our future leaders.
Over the next couple of months we will be talking to councils and their chief executives to find out what they want from the programme and what, for them, would mean good value for money. We are very optimistic about the changes we have made so far, and we think it will be a very successful year for the current intake, but we are in a transition period still and the sector’s input and ownership of this scheme will be vital to its success.
For more information about the NGDP or to let us have any thoughts on the future of the programme email: email@example.com
Pascoe Sawyers, principal adviser - Leadership and Localism, Local Government Group