Is now a good time for young people to join the public sector?

by | Aug 4, 2020 | News

The spotlight has fallen on the public sector as never before this year. The economic damage to the private sector caused by COVID-19 and the measures taken to contain it means that for many young people, the best job opportunities in the near future may well be in the public sector. 

What is the public sector?

The public sector currently employs around 5.5m people in the UK, with 1.7m in the NHS, 1.5m in Education and 1.1m in public administration. The remainder includes police, the armed forces, health and social work outside the NHS and housing associations.

Much of the burden of dealing with the pandemic has fallen on employees in the public sector, and this has led to calls to hire more people in health and social care in particular. Public sector workers have not only led the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus but also had to deal with the socioeconomic fallouts. 

Why is it a good time to join the public sector for young people?

A number of government departments have recently announced recruitment drives, reversing a downward trend from the austerity years. These include 1,000 new probation officers and over 5,000 places for healthcare courses at universities, including 3,800 for nurses. This is in addition to the 20,000 new police officers to be recruited over the next three years that the government promised last year.

Furthermore, the government has also recently announced an above – inflation pay rise for public sector workers including doctors, teachers and police officers. This comes as a reflection of and gratitude for all the hard work they put into serving our country and especially the risks they took to care for others whilst fighting the pandemic. 

What skills do young people need to be able to join the public sector?

The public sector encompasses a very wide range of roles. There are accountants, programmers, office managers and HR officers, whose roles are very similar to their private sector equivalents. In some of these cases there can be specific qualifications – for example, there is a public sector-specific accountancy qualification, CIPFA.

Many of the more specific public sector roles require a university degree in the subject or a postgraduate qualification, such as nursing, medicine, teaching and social work. There are often less qualified roles working alongside them and there may be pathways from these into the more qualified roles. For example, there are a small number of nursing degree apprenticeships, where you can study for a nursing degree part-time, and nursing associates, which can provide a path to becoming a qualified nurse. 

Some of the top skills needed to join the public sector, according to Bright Network, are:

  1. Excellent organisation and negotiation skills
  2. Creativity and flexible thinking
  3. Leadership. 
  4. Decision – making ability
  5. Team working skills 
  6. The ability to work alone
  7. Good communication skills – written & oral
  8. Enthusiasm and commitment for politics, policy issues and current affair. 
  9. Confidence and drive
  10. Time management skills and the ability to work to tight deadlines

Where can young people look to gain skills to join the public sector?

Many companies are currently offering free courses to individuals who want to up-skill during the pandemic. These include Google #DigitalGarage and Reed Courses

What should I do next?

If you are looking to work in the public sector and are already qualified for the position you are interested in, you can find public sector jobs posted here.

For more information about how to get into some specific sectors:


Social Work (qualified)

Care Worker

Teaching – primary; secondary

Teaching assistant

Police officer

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