APS struggles for top talent, DoD establishes AI office, and UK Cabinet Office reveals new high-earners list: management & workforce round-up

By on 03/02/2022 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Data from the UK Cabinet Office shows that almost 600 civil servants now earn at least £150,000 (US$204,081) a year. Photo by Barbara Olsen via Pexels

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Australian agencies struggle to source employees with in-demand skills during pandemic

The Australian Public Service (APS) has said the pandemic has made it harder for agencies to hire civil servants with the most sought-after skills.

It said labour market shortages in Australia have made roles in areas such as IT, digital and data even more difficult to source. One agency with about 400 staff told The Mandarin that they were aware of between 30 and 40 vacancies.

Emphasising to potential candidates the benefits of the APS’s workplace culture, flexibility, and its mission to serve the public interest has been proposed as part of the solution.

Paul Creech, Australia’s digital health agency acting chief, said the APS was dealing with a “very competitive” job market, especially from the business sector.

“They’ve got that one-on-one relationship with the private sector. They get really good insight and vice-versa; [businesses] get insight into the talent of our people as well,” Creech said. “You’re constantly managing that tension… [staff] can see the pasture is greener when it comes to remuneration especially.”

UK civil service must develop workforce plan before making up to 55,000 job cuts, say observers

Leading UK civil service observers have called on the British government to develop plans on the staffing requirement for the post-COVID public sector before it goes ahead with plans to cut thousands of jobs.

In its Whitehall Monitor report published on Monday, the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank said that there was a need for fundamental changes to the UK state to avoid the government being knocked off course when faced with shocks to the system, such as the pandemic.

As well as developing a targeted workforce plan to underpin its goal of reducing the size of the civil service by as many as 55,000 roles, the report also calls for reforms including clarifying ministerial and civil service accountability, and improvements to both data and transparency in government in light of pandemic response difficulties.

The report highlighted that plans set out in the cross-government Spending Review in October last year to “reduce non-frontline civil service headcount to 2019-20 levels by 2024-25” would be difficult to achieve without damaging service capability.

US defense department launches office to accelerate AI

The US Defense Department (DoD) has set up a new hub that will consolidate its AI-centered developments across its operations to speed up the rate of progress in this area.  

John Sherman, DoD’s chief information officer, is expected to play a major role overseeing the new branch, called the Office of the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (OCDAO). He has said he will take on the role of acting chief digital and AI officer until the department has hired the right person to fill the role.

“In addition to getting the OCDAO up and running for [full operational capacity], rest assured we’ll remain laser-focused on our CIO duties – cybersecurity, digital modernisation and other areas the department relies on us for,” Sherman told reporters at a press call this week. “We’re not taking our eye off the ball.”

Officials expect the new office to give the department “end-to-end” capabilities to capture data before using it for advanced analytics. They are working to reach full capacity by 1 June this year.

Details of the new unit’s establishment were given by Sherman and two other senior defense officials, along with information about the new hub’s main goals. Two memorandums signed by Kathleen Hicks, deputy defense secretary, were released on Wednesday. These also provide detail on the OCDAO’s functions.

UK civil service high-earners increase by 8.5%, data shows

The Cabinet Office’s latest transparency data showed that almost 600 civil servants now earn at least £150,000 (US$204,081) a year, marking an 8.5% increase on the previous year’s figures.

The office’s new ‘high earners’ list gives a snapshot of pay in September last year, and consists of 599 names (an increase from 552 in 2020). Eight of the top 10 spots were taken by rail industry executives. Top of this list for the fourth consecutive year was Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s chief executive, who earns £620,000-£624,999 (US$843,462-US$850,263) per year.

In second place was Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail. Haines’ salary bracket ranges from £585,000-£589,999 (US$796,708-US$803,380). Both Thurston and Haines’ salaries were unchanged from 2020. Also featured in the top 10 were six other senior officials at the Department for Transport (DfT)’s rail infrastructure owner and operator.

The list contained only two non-rail officials: David Peattie, chief executive officer for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (salary bracketed at £395,000-£399,999 or US$537,340-US$544,140) and Richard Moriarty, CEO of Civil Aviation (£345,000-£349,000 or US$469,322-US$474,763).

Around a fifth of the roles to appear on the civil service high-earners list are at DfT rail organisations, including the East West Rail Company and OLR Holdings, as well as Network Rail and HS2.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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