Successive reviews of the APS have highlighted the importance of an effective partnership between the APS and the Government in delivering strong outcomes. The Strengthening Partnerships initiative led by the APSC is a new approach to understanding and emphasising the important collaboration between the APS and Ministers and their offices. The initiative has two components:
- Development of guidance material for the APS on engaging effectively with Ministers and their advisers. The material has been developed with the assistance of an experienced Ministerial Liaison Reference Panel of current and former Chiefs of Staff and senior public service executives. Themes include the operating environment of a Ministerial office, working with Ministers, and principles for Departmental Liaison Officers.
The material helps APS employees understand their role and the role of their Minister and Ministerial advisers.
- Through the APS Academy, development of a learning program, targeted at SES officers. The Strengthening Partnerships SES Learning Program is delivered by experienced practitioners and reflects the lived experience of senior officials and Ministerial offices. It covers supporting ministers to deliver outcomes, delivering quality, timely advice to inform decisions, and working in partnership with Minister’s offices to effectively implement decisions and priorities.
The APSC will monitor the guidance material and the SES Learning Program and look for opportunities to broaden the work and reach of Strengthening Partnerships.
Data is a growth industry, partly because of all the advances in digital and the fact that you can now learn, in much more granular detail, the effects of policies, what parts of the community ... where there are gaps. And I think there’s no question the Government has recognised the power of data and the importance of investment in data as an uplift.71
Dr David Gruen, Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Head of Data Profession
As the demand for digital, ICT and data skills across the labour market increases, the APS needs to focus on growing these capabilities internally and building its talent pipelines to continue to deliver its services to the Australian community. These skills need to be contemporary and continuously refreshed. Moreover, technological and digital literacy needs to be seen as a core skill. As such, improving the base level of technological and digital literacy, at all levels, will improve capability and decision-making.
In the 2021 APS Agency Survey, 71% of agencies identified critical skills shortages, with gaps in data and digital skills the most common. At the same time, increased capability in strategic HR across the APS will benefit the uplift of data and digital skills, particularly through improved workforce strategy implementation and planning. The APS is addressing capability uplift through the Digital, Data and HR Professional streams. Each stream is led by a Head of Profession responsible for developing capability to address focused, long-term capability needs.
The APS Digital Profession has been in place since April 2020, and now has more than 2,650 members. It is helping to bridge the gap between the current digital and ICT capability and what the APS is expected to need in the future. The digital profession has mapped 150 digital roles to career pathways, to help people explore their digital career options in Government and has piloted an ‘oneAPS Opportunities’ platform to test new approaches to find and deploy digital professionals. In addition, more than 850 digital professionals have participated in targeted coaching and mentoring programs for women.72
Figure 2.4: Strategic Labour Force Insights Dashboard
Digital Profession—Emerging Talent Programs
To meet the Australian Government’s ambition of being in the top 3 digital Governments by 2025, the APS needs people with the right digital skills, capability and mindset.The global shortage of digital talent means it is important for the APS not only to upskill and re-skill its current workforce, but also to generate a talent pipeline for the future.
The Digital Profession’s Emerging Talent Programs provide the APS with potential employees with new digital skills and fresh ideas, especially ‘digital natives’. The programs target different skill and education levels:
Emerging Talent Program Induction Session.
- Graduates—giving people with a university degree in a digital or technical field the opportunity to use their digital skills to build a better Australia
- Cadets—supporting people currently studying an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a digital or technology-related field and giving them practical skills while they study
- Apprentices—providing an opportunity for people who are passionate about digital technology and looking to start their digital or technical career in Government (no degree is required for this program)
- Australian Defence Force Cyber Gap Program – partnering with the Australian Defence Force to provide people with a 12-month online program, completed in conjunction with tertiary studies and designed to enhance skills and employability in the cyber security field.
These programs identify and recruit emerging digital talent by providing visible entry-level pathways into digital careers in Government, promoting digital and technical careers as an option to young people to grow the talent pool, matching the right digital talent to the needs of agencies, and delivering ongoing support and targeted learning and development to program participants.
The programs have been successful in boosting the number of digital graduates, cadets and apprentices working in the APS. In 2019, 96 apprentices, cadets and graduates were placed. This increased to 153 in 2021. The 2022 program intake interviewed 750 potential future digital practitioners and is expecting to place 300 people into digital roles across 20 agencies.
Workforce data indicates there are 4,359 people73 working in data roles across the APS and numbers continue to grow as the demand for dynamic data-driven public policy increases. While the labour market appears to have improved the availability of specialist data skills over the past 2 years, strategic workforce planning effort is still needed to attract and retain data specialists.
The APS Data Profession was established in September 2020, to lift the data capability of the APS workforce to generate deeper insights to inform decision-making in policy development, program management and service delivery.
Several initiatives have been undertaken in the first year of the profession to establish a data literate APS workforce, with highly capable sophisticated and specialist data professionals including:
- delivering the first APS data graduate program, which saw 216 graduates join the service across 15 agencies, with more agencies to be involved in the coming year
- releasing the APS Data Literacy Capability Framework to improve understanding of the data-specific knowledge, skills and behaviours related to a range of activities from communicating with or about data, to performing exploratory data analysis—the framework is a guide for APS agencies, employees and managers as they build data capabilities, manage workforce requirements and develop careers
- establishing a strategic recruitment policy to fill senior data roles across the service.
More than 1,500 people had joined the data profession network by September 2021 with active engagement across agencies in governance bodies and project groups.
The APS HR Profession was established in October 2019, with the aim of attracting, building and retaining strategic HR capability across the APS. The HR profession now has 3,500 members and more than 40 senior HR panelists supporting recruitment for key senior HR roles in the APS.
The HR Profession delivered several key initiatives in 2020–21 to build and uplift strategic HR skills across the APS including:
- launching the APS HR Workforce Strategy and Action Plan in August 2021 which focuses on growing individual capability, delivering consistent and high-quality services, and maturing the HR profession
- releasing the Pathways to Professionalisation—APS HR Capability Framework, a key implementation activity outlined in the APS HR Workforce Strategy, which supports HR professionals at any level to identify their current proficiency and next steps
- piloting the APS HR School Leaver program through which 2020 and 2021 Year 12 graduates can enter a HR career in the APS workforce and access on-the-job and corporate training with one of 12 participating agencies.
Through its Deregulation Agenda, the Australian Government is working to minimise the regulatory burden faced by business, while maintaining the regulation needed to secure competitive markets, safe communities and a healthy environment. Strengthening and uplifting the APS’s regulator performance, capability, culture and professionalism is a core component of the Government’s renewed regulatory framework.
For the APS to continue to deliver effective and efficient regulation into the future, practitioners need the skills, tools and culture to ensure high performance standards and good outcomes. The APSC, PM&C and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment have partnered to establish the Excellence in Professional Regulation pilot training program.
This pilot program will be progressively developed and delivered over 3 years. It will include 3 streams: Regulatory Practice Essentials, Mastering Regulatory Practice and Leading a Regulatory System. Drawing on the principles of the recently released Regulator Performance Guide,74 the program will take advantage of technology and various contemporary and continuous learning approaches to deliver a holistic learning experience.
The Secretaries Board has also established a Regulator Leadership Cohort, comprising heads of Commonwealth regulators and senior leaders with significant regulatory functions, to provide perspective and expertise on improving regulator capability, culture and performance. The Regulator Leadership Cohort recommends actions to adopt best practice and improve performance across Commonwealth regulators. It is also partnering with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) to deliver leadership masterclasses that support senior regulators to share collective insights and build a trusted community for shared problem-solving.
71Dr David Gruen, Australian Statistician and Head of Data Profession. (2021). IPAA Work with Purpose Podcast Special Anniversary Edition. 29 April.
72The Women in IT Executive Mentoring (WITEM) program and the Coaching for Women in Digital program.
73APSED, 30 June 2021. Number of APS employees within the Data and Research job family within the 2021 edition of the APS Job Family Framework.
74PM&C. (2021). Regulator Performance Guide. 1 July.