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Appendix 6

The APS is a large and diverse workplace with a workforce composition that varies across agencies. For example, the largest agency has 36,221 APS employees while the smallest has two. The diversity of occupations is best understood by comparison of APS Job Families which segments jobs into 16 occupational streams.

The data presented in this chapter is from multiple sources and based on non-SES ongoing employment information only. The key findings are summarised here:

  • The peak of the APS has shifted from APS 3 to APS 6.
  • There has been greatest percentage growth of EL 1 cohort.
  • There has been a declining trend in the presence of lower classification levels across the APS.
  • Complexity of the work has changed.
  • Elements of legacy classifications remaining in the current structure are no longer utilised.
  • Graduates numbers have increased offset by a reduction in trainee classification use.
  • Broadbanding is included in 80 agency EAs (76% of examined EAs) with the most common broadband covering the APS3-APS4 levels.
  • Majority of broadbands (81%) span three levels or less and almost half do not document work availability prior to advancing employees.
  • EL classifications make up 16% of broadbands.
  • Specialist (local) job titles that sit outside the framework of approved classifications are used by 46% of agencies.
  • The majority of the local titles used by agencies do not correlate to reported skill shortages.
  • Mobility rates have reduced for the lower classification levels and increased for the higher classification levels with the highest mobility occurring at the EL 1 classification.
  • There is an evident decline in length at level for EL classifications.
  • The number of employees who have experience across more than one agency has declined.
  • There is limited use of job classification methodologies across the APS with 38% of agencies undertaking no documented analysis to determine appropriate classification for new roles.
  • The predominant reference point for classification decisions is comparison with similar internal roles.
  • Agency WLS are dated or are confounded with capability frameworks.

Size and shape of the APS

Figure 6.1 shows the trends in APS numbers for the past 20 years.

Figure 6.1 Non-SES ongoing APS employees, 1992-2011 (Source: APSED)

Over the same period of time growth in employment has substantially changed the distribution of classifications. Table 6.1 shows an increase in the percentage of more senior classifications and a commensurate drop in the percentage of lower classifications. The APS 6 classification is the largest in the APS comprising 21% of all non-SES ongoing employees.

Table 6.1 - Ongoing employees by base classification (1996, 2010 and 2011). Source: APSED
Classification 1996 2010 2011
No. % No. % No. %
APS 1 11,984 9.4 854 0.6 975 0.6
APS 2 13,731 10.8 4,081 2.8 3,874 2.6
APS 3 26,219 20.7 20,843 14.1 19,840 13.2
APS 4 17,032 13.4 31,262 21.1 30,676 20.4
APS 5 16,253 12.8 20,552 13.9 21,060 14.0
APS 6 19,483 15.3 30,879 20.8 31,953 21.2
EL 1 12,804 10.1 26,042 17.6 27,620 18.3
EL 2 7,692 6.1 12,381 8.4 12,878 8.5
Total 126,968 148,334 150,621

In recent years the strongest growth has been in the EL 1 classification followed closely by APS 4. Figure 6.2 shows the relative growth in ongoing classifications from 1996 to 2011.

Figure 6.2 Relative growth in ongoing employment by classification 2996-2011 (Source: APSED)

Profile change

Figure 6.3 shows the classification profile of the APS has changed considerably in the past 16 years with an upward shift in the classification profile.

Figure 6.3 APS profile (Source: APSED)

The shift from APS 3 to APS 4 has in part been influenced by the broadbanding of graduates and the reclassification of frontline services which occurred in regional areas between 1996 and 2004. Growth at the EL 1 level is higher in the ACT (5%) than in the other states and territories (3%).

Figure 6.4 APS profile for ACT versus other states and territories (Source: APSED)

Another measure of the shifting classification profile is the change over time in the ratio of EL employees to those at all other classifications. The ratio of APS to EL staff was 5.1 APS employees to each EL employee in 1996. This has since fallen to 2.7, although there is considerable variation in this ratio among agencies.

Changing demographics

At June 2011, the median age of ongoing employees was 42 years with the largest group aged between 45 and 49 years. Employees in the 45 years and over age group account for 44% of ongoing employees, up from 31% in 1996. The ageing of the cohort at the EL classifications over time is particularly evident: for example, at June 2011, 15% of ongoing EL staff were aged 55 years and over, compared with 6% in 1996. Representation of those aged less than 25 years accounted for 6% of all ongoing employees in 1996 compared to 4% at June 2011. The majority of staff in this age group are employed at the APS 3-5 levels.

Table 6.2 shows the distribution of classification by location. At June 2011, 62% of all ongoing EL classifications were in Canberra compared with only 17% of APS 1-2 classifications and 16% of all APS 3-4 classifications.

Table 6.2 - Ongoing employees, proportion by classification and location (June 2011). Source: APSED
Classification ACT % NSW % Vic % Qld % SA % WA% Tas % NT % Overseas %
APS 1 19.9 21.1 19.1 18.2 7.2 5.2 2.1 6.5 0.8
APS 2 16.5 28.4 18.8 14.6 9.4 6.8 2.8 2.5 0.2
APS 3 11.7 28.5 22.9 16.2 7.4 7.63 3.2 2.2 0.4
APS 4 19.1 25.5 20.1 15.5 6.9 6.6 4.3 1.6 0.3
APS 5 37.5 18.9 15.7 11.2 6.6 5.2 2.2 2.1 0.5
APS 6 45.2 15.5 15.6 9.6 6.0 4.0 1.8 1.4 0.7
EL 1 62.4 9.9 10.9 6.3 4.4 2.4 1.0 0.9 1.8
EL 2 61.5 10.2 12.0 5.1 5.1 2.2 0.9 0.6 2.3
Total 39.0 18.3 16.2 10.9 6.1 4.7 2.3 1.5 1.0


Data shows that 57% of ongoing APS employees have graduate qualifications. Over time, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of APS employees with graduate qualifications. During 2010-11, 71% of engagements had graduate qualifications, considerably higher than the proportion 15 years ago (55% in 1996-97).

Changing nature of work

Figure 6.5 examines the changes in the APS profile and how this might relate to changes in the nature of work in the APS. Employees with at least five years at their current classification level identified an increase in the complexity of their work, the knowledge required to do their job, and their workload in terms of the number and size of tasks they have to complete in any given timeframe. These are all workplace demands and require higher levels of capability to manage successfully.

Figure 6.5 Changes to work in the APS (Source: SOSR employee survey 2010-11)

Classification arrangements

The Classification Rules require the agency head to allocate an approved classification to each APS employee and each group of duties (job) to be performed in the agency.

There are a number of ways in which agencies can tailor the implementation of the approved classification structure to meet their unique requirements, including the use of agency specific and training classifications, the application of broadbands and the use of local titles.

Agency specific classifications

Schedule 1 of the Classification Rules contain the ‘standard’ non-SES classifications (APS 1-6 and EL 1-2) which are supplemented by classifications designed for a specific agency (DAFF Band 1-4; Customs Level 1-5) or relating to work which is only performed in one agency (APS Meat Inspector 1-4; Examiner of Patents; Valuer; and Antarctic Medical Practitioner).

Medical Officers

Schedule 1 of the Classification Rules also contains the Medical Officer Class 1-4 occupational structure. Table 6.3 presents the numbers of staff currently employed at each non-SES Medical Officer classification. The Medical Officers are employed across six large agencies and one small agency. The total numbers represent 0.1% of the total non-SES workforce.

Table 6.3 - Number of Medical Officers at June 2012. Source: Agencies, June 2012
  Medical Officer 1 Medical Officer 2 Medical Officer 3 Medical Officer 4 Total
Numbers 0 36 55 54 145

Training classifications

Schedule 2 of the Classification Rules contains six approved APS-wide training classifications and five agency training classifications. The approved APS-wide training classifications are used by 48% of agencies. Figure 6.6, following, shows the distribution of the APS-wide training classifications within the agencies which use them.

Figure 6.6 Agency use of APS training classifications (Source: Classification survey 2010)

Figure 6.7 shows the Graduate APS cohort has trended upward by 72% since 1996 and now comprises 1,412 ongoing employees (June 2011). Large agencies employ 90% of these graduates. Based on responses from 94 agencies the total graduates expected to be recruited over the next three financial years across the APS is expected to remain at this level.

Trainees have shown a 57% decline since 1996 with a total of 333 trainees (including all trainee and cadet types) employed, predominately in large agencies. (Some agencies have indicated that they tend to engage trainees at the APS 1-2 levels rather than utilising the trainee classifications, so variations over time may not necessarily reflect agencies' use of trainees more broadly.)

Figure 6.7 Growth in the use of Graduate APS and trainee classifications, 1996-2011 (Source: APSED)


Based on examination of 105 out of 112 agency EAs, 76% of agencies have broadband arrangements. Figure 6.8 represents the occurrence of agency broadbands by approved classification and reflects the most common broadband which is APS 3-4.

Figure 6.8 Occurrence of agency broadbands by approved classification (Source: Agency EAs June 2012)

The majority (81%) of broadbands encompass two or three classification levels, as shown in Figure 6.9. The EL classifications make up 16% of broadbands with predominant use for ‘Legal/Lawyer’, ‘Research Scientist’ and ‘Public Affairs’ occupational groups, or relate to work which is only performed in one agency.

Figure 6.9 Number of classifications in a broadband (Source: Agency EAs June 2012)

Figure 6.10 below highlights the types of broadbands agencies have with 36% of broadbands available to all employees in the agency.

Small agencies (54%) typically are the highest user of whole of agency broadbands. Medium and large agencies encompass the remaining at 30% and 16% respectively.

Figure 6.10 Type of broadbands used (Source: Agency EAs June 2012)

Managing advancement within broadbands varies across agencies with no common process identified. Almost half of the agencies that use broadbands indicate that progression to the next classification level within the broadband is not subject to a documented work availability assessment (Figure 6.11). It was not able to be ascertained how, if at all, agencies determine there is sufficient work available at a higher work value level to warrant advancement.

Figure 6.11 Documented work availability test (Source: Classification survey 2010)

A majority of agencies (86%) indicate that progression to a higher classification within the broadband is subject to a documented individual competency or capability assessment. The remaining 14% use informal assessment, an assessment of the employee's performance, or no assessment at all.

Local titles

Almost half of agencies (46%) use specialist job titles (local titles). These are informal labels (not classifications), used by individual agencies to segment their workforce along functional or occupational lines. Local titles (commonly) have a different remuneration structure to other jobs in the agency at the same approved classification, and aim to overcome perceived labour shortages and to reflect market demands.

Analysis of current agency EAs identifies the occurrence of agency local titles (Table 6.4). The most common local titles in use are Legal, Public Affairs, and Professional occupations.

Table 6.4 - Local titles used. Source: APSED
  Legal Public Affairs Professional ICT Research Scientist Technical Officers IT Officer Other
Numbers 64 54 15 9 7 5 5 14

It is evident that some of the local titles used by agencies do not correlate to the reported skill shortages specified in the 2011 State of the Service Report. Figure 6.12 identifies the occupational groupings agencies reported having the most difficulty in recruiting to or retaining.

Figure 6.12 Occupational groupings agencies have most difficulty in recruiting or retaining (Source: SOSR agency survey 2010-11)

Workforce Mobility

The mobility of the APS workforce has varied over the past 16 years, with periods of decline, stability and growth. Workforce mobility peaked in 1997, due to an increase in interagency transfers at level. Promotions have remained steady over time.

Figure 6.13 Ongoing employees: promotion and transfer rate between agencies, 1996-2011 (Source: APSED)

The mobility rate varies at different classifications with the lower classification levels experiencing the most significant reduction in mobility since 1996. The EL 1 classification has consistently had the highest mobility rate over the period 1996-2011 (with the exception of 1997 and 1999).

Table 6.5 - Mobility rates by classification, 1996 and 2011. Source: APSED
  APS 1 APS 2 APS 3 APS 4 APS 5 APS 6 EL 1 EL 2 Total
1996 1.50 2.92 2.76 2.93 2.89 3.50 3.94 3.49 2.96
2011 0.11 0.43 0.80 1.33 2.63 3.04 4.67 3.93 2.60

Length at level

At June 2011, the median length at level for all ongoing non-SES employees was 4 years, which corresponds to the median of 3.8 years in 1996. The median length at level for the ELs has been consistently above the median for the total workforce however it has declined since the peak in 1998.

Experience across agencies

Noted in the Blueprint is the importance of ensuring depth and breadth of experience and exposure at all classifications. One way of measuring depth of experience is to look at the number of agencies APS employees have worked in. As shown in Table 6.6, since 1996 there has been a decline in the number of agencies worked in for all classifications.

Table 6.6 - Ongoing employees, number of agencies worked in, 1996 and 2011. Source: APSED
  One agency Two agencies Three agencies Four + agencies
Classification 1996 2011 1996 2011 1996 2011 1996 2011
APS 1 86.2 91.3 10.4 6.5 2.4 1.5 1.0 0.7
APS 2 78.1 85.7 15.8 10.6 4.1 2.5 2.0 1.2
APS 3 74.1 83.7 18.4 13.0 5.1 2.3 2.3 1.0
APS 4 68.7 77.0 20.9 17.6 6.9 3.8 3.5 1.6
APS 5 66.5 74.6 21.3 18.1 7.6 4.8 4.5 2.5
APS 6 61.1 70.4 23.3 19.7 9.0 6.2 6.7 3.7
EL 1 50.5 58.6 24.6 23.3 12.9 10.1 12.0 7.9
EL 2 45.5 54.3 24.4 23.1 13.5 11.0 16.5 11.6
Total 67.8 71.1 19.8 18.8 7.2 6.0 5.1 4.1

The largest increase in the proportion of employees only working in one agency occurs at the APS 3 level and is consistent with the new entry point and increased engagements at this level. Increases to the APS 6, EL 1 and EL 2 numbers may be reflective of the growth at these levels.

The decline in the proportion of employees who have experience across four or more agencies is most dramatic at the ELs.

Classification assessment

There is limited use of job classification techniques across the APS. 38% of agencies indicating they undertake no documented analysis to determine the appropriate classification when a new role is created.

It is evident that there is no consistent job methodology across the APS. A sample of agencies identified that only 9% use a formal role evaluation tool. The predominant reference point for classification decisions is comparison with similar internal jobs followed by agency specific work level standards (Figure 6.14).

Figure 6.14 Sources and methods agency decision-makers typically use to classify new roles (Source: Classification survey 2010)

When classifying vacant roles in their agency, decision-makers predominately use the existing classification (87%) followed by a comparison with similar internal jobs (84%), then the agency work level standards (80%).

Analysis of the existing agency specific work level standards (WLS) found some agency standards are more than 10 years old and several agencies have confounded WLS with capability frameworks. In some instances the WLS are a blend of capability and work characteristics and in other cases, a capability framework has been used as a WLS.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018