There are times when we are members of the 251 different departments and agencies in the Government of Canada, and there are times when we are are Public Service.
Increasingly, it seems that we are spending more time in the former, and less in the latter. There is a lot of talk about the challenges facing each department, but very little internal discussion on what challenges we’re facing as a Public Service. We have a few departments, though, that serve the broader Public Service. For example, we have Policy Horizons, which I’ve spoken about before, and we have the Canada School of Public Service, which I have also spoken about before.
I want to take a moment, though, and look at how the CSPS could operate. The vision of the school is:
The primary responsibility of the Canada School of Public Service is to provide a broad range of learning opportunities and to establish a culture of learning within the Public Service.
I absolutely love this. We see how it comes together, too, with courses like the Orientation to the Public Service. The problem, though, is that that’s where the mandatory training stops. Some departments have found it to be more cost-effective to do their own training and create their own material. What is lost, though, is the cross-pollination across departments and the idea of creating a cadre of Public Servants — rather than a cadre of employees from this department or that agency.
So what could the CSPS actually do? HRSDC, as an example, has an excellent EC Development Program Curriculum (Check out GCPedia for the schedule of courses for each level). We know that new hires increasingly are used to an academic model. What we lack is a good transition from school to work. While graduates have great minds, they might not have the hard skills or knowledge to work in the government. Writing a briefing note, as an example, is a very specific type of writing.
Given that the government is already looking at centralizing services, maybe we could look at the same thing with training. We can make it standardized for many functions. ECs should have a standard track to follow. Same with PMs, PEs, etc. While the jobs are going to vary depending on department, the same basic skills set ought to be the same — and the CSPS should be offering that service (including coordination for non-CSPS courses — contracting with uOttawa or the IOG).
The understanding is that every Public Servant is going to have a mix of generalist and specialist skills, depending on their jobs. The CSPS should provide that generalist base for Public Servants, with departments providing some of the specialization.
Of course, such a system would be helped if we could make entry-level positions that exist outside of development programs the exception, rather than the rule.
We want to talk about retention and training the Public Service of the Future, maybe this would be a place to start.