Public knowledge. Introducing….. the public sector (hold on to your seats)

Starter for 10

Fingers on buzzers. Who employs 5.7 million people and offers 19.1% of jobs throughout the UK?

Give up?

Surprise, surprise, it’s the public sector.–2012/sty-uk-public-sector-employment.html  – facts courtesy of the Office for National Statistics, itself part of that same sector, wouldn’t you just know it?

Er, what exactly is the public sector?

Clue’s in the name.  Any organisations funded through local or national taxes by the general population and existing for the public’s benefit. As opposed to the private sector which is financed and run by individuals or corporations to make a profit for themselves.  (Basically.)

Recently there has sprung up a hitherto unknown Third Sector – charities and not-for- profit bodies which are neither publicly funded nor privately owned.  But don’t let’s even go there.  Confusing, complicated. Instead take yourself to Prospects for a rundown, lowdown and breakdown of what the public sector covers.  To give you a teensy taster, it includes the civil service (government departments), local government (a civic centre near you), schools, colleges, universities, NHS hospital trusts… There’s more, much more, but you get the picture.

Which means what, jobswise?

How long have we got?  Opportunities range from cartographer to country ranger, human resources officer to heritage manager, patent examiner to probation officer, social worker to spy. Yep: even when he’s emerging from the surf in his skivvies Bond, James Bond works for the public sector.  As does nasty Malcolm Tucker and that nice Inspector Barnaby.

So pretty much any job you can think of and some you can’t (rights of way officer, anyone?) is in the public domain – even roles such as accountant, lawyer, software developer,  traditionally considered the preserve of private companies.

What’s the catch? (1)

Ah, so young, yet so cynical.  And so right.  The elephant in the room is money.  Salaries in the public sector are much lower than in the corporate world.

But then again (1)

Holidays are longer, the working day is shorter and sweeter, early starts and late nights  the exception not the rule.  So the actual hourly rate = probably not that much different.

What’s the catch? (2)

For grads, getting in can be gruelling: the selection process for both the NHS Management Scheme and the Civil Service Fast Stream is notoriously fiendish – tougher than  a hippo’s hide, in fact.

But then again (2)

There are other ways in: one-off graduate level vacancies abound and there’s always the option of going in at a slightly lower level and working your way up.  Happens all the time.

Want to know more?

Part-time and temporary jobs are another good way of sneaking in under the wire, but a word to the wise:  they may be advertised only on the relevant organisations’ websites, Facebook or Twitter links.

Go public. Go places.

Gill Sharp
Senior Careers Consultant
QM Careers & Enterprise Centre


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