Local government workforce and capability planning


Effective workforce planning and development is essential for local government to ensure they have the capacity and capability to deliver services to communities and meet future challenges. At the same time, local councils are significant employers and play an important role in their local economies. While the powers and responsibilities of local government differ across the globe, councils often have a formal role in economic development and supporting employment and skills.

This research paper from LGIU Associate Kerry Ferguson highlights examples and key themes and lessons. See also our Global Local bulletin on local government workforce issues which includes more original content.


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Local government in many countries is experiencing long-term workforce challenges including:

  • Ageing workforce, especially in key technical professions
  • Difficulty in recruiting and retaining key staff
  • Competition from the private sector in certain occupations, especially on remuneration
  • Unsuitability and/or inaccessibility of training for local government staff

Effective workforce planning and development is essential for local government to ensure they have the capacity and capability to deliver services to communities and meet future challenges. At the same time, local councils are significant employers and play an important role in their local economies. While the powers and responsibilities of local government differ across the globe, councils often have a formal role in economic development and supporting employment/skills in their jurisdictions..

The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of international practice on workforce strategies and initiatives that can build capacity and tackle workforce challenges in local government across the globe. While there is plentiful international research on workforce planning and development at national government level, such as this guide from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) there is much less cross-territorial research on local government. The paper begins with some context about common workforce issues and challenges. It then considers the importance of workforce planning and highlights various types of initiatives that can be used to tackle skills and capacity issues. The paper includes case studies from local and sub-national governments, before discussing some emerging themes and lessons learned.

The key points are:

  • Despite the different national contexts in which local councils operate, there is a good deal of common ground and therefore it is useful to look at international workforce planning practice.
  • Successful strategic workplace planning requires sustained organisational commitment and ‘buy in’: councils vary in the degree to which they have developed and implemented workforce plans, with smaller councils often facing HR capacity challenges and competing pressures resulting in less focus on strategic workforce planning.
  • Capacity building support for local government workforce planning from national/state governments and sector bodies can be valuable but should avoid being prescriptive: the most effective support programmes take account of local differences and levels of ‘maturity’ in workforce planning.
  • The examples in this paper show how collaboration between local councils, different tiers of government, skills and educational establishments and business can generate innovative initiatives for growing the overall talent pool and tackling skills shortages: this benefits local economies as well as increasing local government’s capability.

A definition

What is meant by workforce planning?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines workforce planning as… “a process of analysing the current workforce, determining future workforce needs, identifying the gap between the workforce you will have available and your future needs, and implementing solutions so that an organisation can accomplish its mission, vision and strategic plan”. Workforce planning encompasses recruitment, retention, training and development, and succession planning.

Strategic workforce planning has a time horizon of 3-5 years. Operational workforce planning typically focuses on the next 3-12 months.

The benefits of effective workforce planning include:

  • Being better prepared for challenges ahead
  • Alignment of current and future workforce needs with the organisation’s strategic objectives
  • Focusing human resource practices and resources on the right activities to improve performance and productivity
  • Increasing opportunities for current and future workers and widening the talent pool for promotable employees; this will help attract and retain valued employees.
  • A means to achieve a competitive advantage through the effective use of human resources.

Workforce planning typically follows seven stages:

  1. Initiation and planning
  2. Alignment of strategic plans, departmental business plans and workforce plans
  3. Assessing workforce demand
  4. Assessing workforce supply
  5. Gap (or surplus) analysis
  6. Action planning, including risk profiling and mitigations
  7. Implementation and monitoring

Most workforce planning guidance recommends scenario planning as the method of assessing workforce requirements with a range of plausible scenarios. Workforce plans should also be tested against external factors impacting on the organisation (PESTLE analysis – political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental – is a useful technique).  Figure 1 shows a typical process for developing a strategic workforce plan.


The Australian Public Service (the federal civil service) is regarded as having one of the most mature approaches to workforce planning. PWC Australia developed a workforce planning maturity model for Australian Public Service against which services can assess their level of maturity, recognising the reality of balancing capability and affordability. Figure 2 below shows four phases plotted against the degree of integration within workforce planning (X axis) and the level of maturity (Y axis).


Local governments vary in their maturity when it comes to workforce planning. In the countries reviewed, some local councils are at the ‘foundational’ level of workforce planning (a staffing plan to deliver immediate organisational priorities), whereas others have developed strategic workforce planning alongside an integrated approach to human resources (comprising recruitment, learning and development and talent management). Much depends on the size, role and capacity of local councils: smaller councils and those with less HR capacity are less likely to have strategic workforce plans. National governments and state governments (in federal systems) in some countries require or encourage local government workforce planning. Many national or state governments provide support and guidance to local councils, including tools and templates. Local government associations/sector bodies also support local councils with capacity building and other support.


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Local councils in many countries face many similar problems and challenges, albeit within their own institutional and economic contexts. For example, construction skills shortages are affecting public infrastructure projects in the UK, Europe, US, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong among others. Shortages of social workers, care staff, planning/building control professionals and environmental services workers are also affecting councils in many countries. Local and state governments lost significant headcount during the global recession of 2007/08 and contraction in public budgets. Some of today’s capability challenges stem from strategies to cut spending, such as recruitment freezes (resulting in an ageing workforce) and redundancies/early retirements (leading to loss of critical knowledge and expertise). Recent research from the UK’s Local Government Chronicle (LGC) found widespread skills shortages in councils, largely due to competition from the private sector who not only have higher pay but increasingly offer better work-life balance.

Local governments are key employers and anchor institutions within their local economies. They can therefore play an important role in the overall approach to workforce and skills planning in their regions, alongside other tiers of government, representatives of industries, businesses and major employers, educational institutions and training providers.

Shared issues play out differently across different contexts. For instance, both Australia and the UK have difficulty with apprenticeships in the construction sector but in different ways.  Australia struggles with a high drop-out rate, whereas the UK finds it hard to recruit construction apprentices. In both countries, construction and local government have an ‘image problem’. In the UK, public sector construction is largely outsourced to the private sector, local authorities often have only a small direct labour force, whereas in Australia local authorities carry out more construction and public works themselves.

Impact of Covid-19

Local government has played a crucial role supporting communities during the pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated global labour shortages in key services areas and could have wider implications for workforce planning:

  • More local government workers are thinking about leaving the sector due to their experience of working during the pandemic (as found in this US study, for example)
  • Workers nearing retirement may bring forward their retirement plans
  • The pandemic has disproportionately impacted on women and may set back women’s progress in science and engineering careers, according to the Australian Academy of Science
  • Border restrictions have affected the recruitment of overseas workers
  • Digital technology has rapidly advanced into many facets of life including public service delivery: this will have a lasting impact on the workplace, even for functions that cannot be performed remotely, as it has shown employers and employees what can be achieved through technology.

Responding to climate change

Local governments are already playing a key role in responding to the climate emergency: responding to natural disasters; improving infrastructure resilience and reducing carbon emissions in their jurisdictions. This role will increase as governments across the globe seek to minimise global warming but councils face financial and other barriers to effective action, including labour shortages and the need for new organisational skills and knowledge.

Fourth Industrial revolution

Automation and robotics are likely to impact on many roles in the future, including shortage occupations such as care and construction. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are likely to replace or significantly change white collar and ‘knowledge’ jobs in local government including finance, human resources and legal services, as discussed in this Nasdaq article).

Review of international practice

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International practice review

In the countries reviewed, a range of activities have been deployed to build capacity in local government workforces, including:

  • Providing advice, toolkits and consultancy support for workforce planning
  • Training or retraining the unemployed/under-employed and embedding a culture of improvement/career development at all levels
  • Redesigning jobs to remove non-essential requirements and allow optimal use of available expertise. For example, two local authorities in the English midlands overcame difficulties in recruiting planning officers by redesigning job roles to split the tasks requiring a local, on-site presence from specialist expertise that could be delivered remotely. This allowed them to share local planning officer resource and jointly recruit a senior planner who is based in another part of the country. Another English local authority redesigned a hard-to-recruit role in children’s residential services into school term time and non-term time contracts to attract working parents to the term-time positions and students to the non-term time positions.
  • Bringing back retired personnel with a focus on mentoring/knowledge transfer (as in this example of civil engineer shortages for public works in South Africa)
  • Leveraging infrastructure investment/public procurement to fund and provide local jobs/apprenticeship opportunities
  • Marketing local government/sub-national government as an attractive career choice (see the Government of Yukon Territory (Canada) People Plan for a discussion about branding – the Yukon government has been a Top 100 employer in Canada since 2014)
  • Outreach into schools and universities to improve knowledge and appeal of shortage sectors
  • Expanding the recruitment pool, by targeting under-represented groups such as women and minorities or recruiting skilled migrants
  • Adopting innovation/new technologies to reduce demand for workforce, re-focus staff resource and/or increase productivity, for example, using digital technology in the care of vulnerable adults (as discussed in this LGIU briefing) or using innovations in building works such as off-site construction, pre-cast concrete and automation.

Case studies from LGAs

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Bridging the skills gaps, case studies from the US, UK and Australia

Developing effective workforce plans – case studies from local government associations and support agencies 

UK – Local Government Association workforce planning support

The LGA support English authorities with strategic workforce planning. As well as providing guides and tools to all member councils, they provide intensive capacity building support, including:

  • Interactive workforce planning workshops for senior leaders and managers
  • Bite-sized workforce planning sessions designed to fit busy diaries
  • Reviews of talent management and workforce strategies and plans
  • Support with developing career pathways
  • People analytics
  • A support network for workforce planning professionals, using digital platforms to work through common issues
  • Facilitation for smaller councils to collaborate across county areas
  • Service-based support on specific workforce challenges

The workforce planning support programme receives excellent feedback from councils. The Chief Executive of Torbay Council commented: “[The LGA’s] support, challenge, knowledge and sharing of best practice from elsewhere has been fundamental in getting the council’s senior leaders and managers to really think about what workforce planning is, and how the activity can help the Council move forward and plan effectively for the future.”

UK – Local Government Association (England) – apprenticeship support

The LGA’s apprenticeships support programme provides a range of practical support and advice for local authorities and maintained schools, helping them maximise the return on investment of their apprenticeship levy (a UK tax paid by employers with annual pay bills in excess of £3 million – the levy is 0.5% of the total pay bill and is used to fund apprenticeships).

The programme of support includes:

  • Webinars on key aspects of managing an apprenticeship programme, action learning, advice and guidance notes
  • ‘Apprenticeship MOT’ reviews of council programmes
  • Toolkits, including an Apprenticeship Maturity Model self-assessment tool
  • Research on apprenticeships within local government, including an annual survey
  • Mapping apprenticeship standards to job roles and supporting the development of new standards that are important to local government
  • Practical help for councils who want to transfer unspent levy monies to other employers in their supply chain. A growing number of councils are taking advantage of government rules allowing 25% of unspent levy to be transferred to other employers to fund apprenticeships in such sectors as social care, charities, construction and engineering. This ensures the apprenticeship levy benefits the local economy and supply chain. An example of a levy transfer scheme is Dudley Council’s: it identified skills shortages in health, adult social care, advanced manufacturing and childcare in the borough and made these priority areas for levy transfers.

UK – London Councils

London Councils represents London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London. It is supporting London borough councils with a workplace planning tool, a spreadsheet which captures workforce data and helps councils analyse demand, supply, gaps and scenario planning. The tool helps ensure data is robust and collected consistently.

London Councils also has a Workforce Planning & Intelligence Network for sharing best practice amongst HR professionals, and a Recruitment Managers Network which reviews common areas of staff shortage and initiates joint projects and shared solutions to recruitment issues. For instance, London Councils ran a £1.85 million Employment Construction Careers programme (funded through the European Social Fund) across 7 boroughs and the City of London, which helped unemployed Londoners build construction skills and qualifications across a range of areas, from site management to administration and security.

UK – Scottish Improvement Service

The Improvement Service is the national improvement organisation for local councils in Scotland. It supports capacity building and facilitates collaboration between councils. It has produced resources to help Scottish councils with workforce planning including templates, guides and toolkits, and signposting to other relevant organisations such as the CIPD and National Health Service (NHS). It also provides consultancy support to individual councils.

Australia – Tasmanian government

The state government of Tasmania worked with the UTS-CLG (University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Local Government) to produce workforce planning guidelines for Tasmanian local councils. The project was developed to build workforce planning capability in councils, in recognition of their being best placed to identify the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to effectively tailor services, generate economic and employment opportunities, and support the prosperity of local and regional communities. The guidelines were developed in collaboration with a reference group of local councils to ensure their applicability in the Tasmanian context.

United States – Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

MTAS is part of the Institute of Public Service at the University of Tennessee. It supports capacity building in city/municipal governments with resources and bespoke programmes, including a huge library of standard documents, guidance and information on a wide range of topics including HR and workforce planning. It also provides training and consultancy, including research. Each city/municipality has a MTAS management consultant to support them. Members can also advertise their job vacancies via MTAS, reaching a wider pool of potential applicants.

UK – Scottish Roads Collaboration Project

One project involving the Scottish Improvement Service is the Roads Collaboration Project. The project has been running since 2013 and brings together the 32 Scottish roads authorities and Transport Scotland to deliver a well-maintained road network. Through a workforce planning strand the roads authorities are working with education providers and industry bodies such as the Institute of Civil Engineers to address labour shortages, through:

  • Routes into leadership, a short course for aspiring roads managers
  • Work-based learning and apprenticeships, including graduate apprenticeships
  • Outreach to schools to market roads and civil engineering as a career choice
  • Shared approach to delivering training to roads staff

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Case studies from local governments

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Local government case studies – UK, US and Australia

UK – Swansea Council Corporate Building Services

Swansea Council in Wales has addressed skills shortages in buildings services through an apprenticeship and training programme. The corporate buildings service employs over 700 staff, including around 420 tradespersons/manual workers and around 70 active apprentices. Prior to the programme, the service was struggling to recruit quality candidates and had an ageing workforce.

The programme takes a three-pronged approach – apprenticeships support, mentoring and inclusion – including the following activities:

  • Targeted apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship opportunities, working with the council’s education department
  • Work-based mentoring support with a focus on equality and engagement, linking up with social services (on apprenticeship opportunities for looked-after children) and the refugee settlement programme and Jobcentre Plus
  • Saturday morning trade school sessions aimed at under-represented groups including women
  • Upskilling of existing workforce to NCQ Level 2 in carpentry and ‘wet trades’, in collaboration with trades union learning representatives
  • E-learning and ‘training toolbox’ sessions
  • Working with Qualification Wales to develop training courses that incorporate modern construction methods to future proof the workforce.

Each year the apprenticeship programme receives a high number of applications. Many apprentices go on to further careers within buildings services; new recruits replace around 45% of retiring tradespersons. The success of the programme in buildings services has led to similar approaches in other hard-to-recruit areas such as social services and information technology.

UK – Leeds One Health and Care Workforce

Leeds is a large city in the north of England. Leeds One Workforce is a collaboration between hospital trusts, Leeds City Council, clinical commission groups and independent health and care providers to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities in Leeds. Strategic workforce priorities were agreed in 2019 to address workforce gaps and plan for different roles and skills to deliver future models of care. The partnership recognised that health and care is key to achieving inclusive growth and that health and care providers are anchor institutions in the city. A programme of projects and initiatives have been implemented on workforce supply and retention, leadership, health and wellbeing of the workforce, training and development and inclusion. A key project is the Leeds Health and Care Academy, funded by the partner organisations, which provides cross-organisational learning and capability programmes for the health and care workforce.

Benefits include:

  • Utilising Leeds City Council’s employment and skills expertise in recruiting workers from deprived communities to increase the number of people from under-represented groups getting into health and care careers
  • Sharing resources to deal with winter pressures, including re-focusing staff across organisations
  • Closer working on recruitment and resourcing, including a new ‘one door’ recruitment process that is straightforward and simple for applicants (the participating organisations take responsibility for ensuring applications are routed down the appropriate channel)
  • Leeds is the first city to take a joint approach to the new ‘T-level’ qualification in health, which combines classroom and practical learning with an industry placement to provide real-life experience. The health T-Level has been developed in collaboration with health and care employers and colleges so that course content meets industry needs and prepares students for work, further training or study.

United States – Coconino County, Arizona

Coconino is the second largest county in the US by area (outside Alaska). Serving a vast remote and rural area, the County has 1200 employees. Following serious budget cuts in the early 2010s, the County developed innovative cost-saving solutions to improve retention of skilled employees. The activities, which won two national awards, focused on work-life balance and employee engagement through:

  • Flexible work arrangements: job sharing, phasing into retirement, flexible benefits such as staff being able to purchase up to 10 personal days a year, and tele-commuting (using technology to work from home)
  • Employee involvement in workforce planning and an employee suggestions scheme
  • Access to training and education for employees at every career stage, including classes for new and experienced supervisors; leadership training for managers; free online training; cross training; developing internal talent though the knowledge and experience of employees near retirement; and retirement planning classes.

Employees helped to develop the County’s recruitment and retention strategies, which have attracted a large and diverse pool of internal applicants (filling 40% of vacancies); reduced turnover by 6%; streamlined personnel policies; formed a pool of employees willing to work in other departments to decrease the use and cost of temporary employees; created teleconferencing options for employees who live in outlying areas and find it hard to travel to meetings due to budget cuts.

Coconino County collaborates with other public agencies, education providers, industry bodies, Arizona@Work employment programmes to develop and implement its Local Strategic Workforce Development Plan 2020-2023, an integrated strategy for the whole workforce and economy.

United States – UpSkill Houston

The Greater Houston Partnership established UpSKill Houston as an industry-led partnership of employers, trade associations, education, government and non-profit/community organisations, using a model developed by the US Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management. The aim was to strategically expand the talent pipeline and attract talent to technical careers in sectors considered the drivers of the region’s economy, including construction and petrochemicals. Activities include:

  • Collaborations with community-organisations, public workforce systems and employers to attract and screen potential recruits, including those from low-income families
  • Women into Construction programmes (for example, three months of on-the-job training resulted in 20 women qualifying as pipefitter helpers)
  • Partnering with schools to recruit juniors into pre-apprenticeship programmes
  • Raising awareness of vital middle-skill (more than high school diploma but less than four-year degree) job opportunities in construction which employers struggle to fill.

United States – NextGen Silicon Valley

NextGen is a commission of local governments in the region, including two county organisations and 36 cities, representatives of workforce investment boards, local government professional organisations and university career centre staff from San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Local government faces intensive competition from the private sector and a ‘baby boomer’ retirement wave, leading to labour shortages. NextGen runs a variety of programmes to enhance knowledge about local government agencies, career opportunities and skill advancement. Programmes upskill current employees with potential and attract young and diverse talent from universities, through:

  • Management Talent Exchange – three-month placements in another local agency
  • Regional internships and outreach to university students
  • Tomorrow’s City-County Manager forum – one-day intensive workshop for emerging leaders
  • Fellows Programme bringing specific expertise from universities into local government – benefiting the host organisation and growing a talent pipeline

United States – Southern California Metropolitan Water District

Metropolitan Water District is the largest distributor of treated drinking water in the USA serving 26 member public agencies (14 cities, 11 municipal water districts and a county water authority). It faced a looming loss of skills and knowledge due to retirement in an ageing workforce. In 2012, Metropolitan’s engineering services group implemented a workforce development plan. This was evaluated in 2018 and the lessons learned informed a revised plan for 2019-2023.

Successful measures from the 2012 plan included:

  • Outreach through an intern programme, building relationships with a wider range of universities. This diversified the pool of candidates at entry-level and increased the percentage of female engineers to 21.3%, well above the national average for females in civil engineering; in time, this should lead to increased diversity in senior-level technical and management positions.
  • Balanced recruitment that emphasised softer attributes such as communication, leadership and adaptability as well as technical expertise.
  • Improved ‘onboarding’ including training, mentoring, introductions to managers, site visits and careers advice, aiming to embed organisational culture and values and enthuse recruits about career prospects.
  • Formalised rotations for new recruits to different parts of the organisation – broadening experience, building linkages and adaptability.
  • Mentoring for less experienced staff from experienced managers; and ‘flash mentoring’ sessions with several managers.
  • Management training for high level technical staff with potential, to introduce them to the responsibilities, challenges and strategies of management, including interim assignments; this created a larger pool of candidates ready to move into management.

The 2019-2023 strategy builds on the earlier programme, with a renewed focus on:

  • Succession planning through improving technical expertise at all levels, including a 12 module Engineering Services Overview delivered at lunchtimes.
  • A comprehensive training strategy for staff, including ‘engineer in training’ (on the job training for all new entrants), cross training, professional development and technical presentations from guest speakers at lunchtime ‘brown bag’ sessions.
  • Increasing the diversity of managers and technical leads.

Australia – South Australia Regional Youth Traineeship Program (2015-2019)

The government of South Australia provided $4m AUD for two rounds of traineeship opportunities for unemployed 17-24 year olds, delivered in partnership with the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA). The traineeship funding provided a wage subsidy of $14,500 AUD per year for up to two years for each trainee position within a regional, community or non-metropolitan council. The range of jobs ranged from business, administration and horticulture to civil construction and plant operations.

Key project outcomes were:

  • Strong participation and high qualification completion rates (80% in round 1 and 90% in round 2 achieved at least one Certificate III qualification). This compared to the South Australian completion rate of 53%
  • High employment rates post-completion (over 80% for both round 1 and round 2).

The LGASA believes the programme’s success can be attributed to:

  • Strong interest from councils and trainees
  • Recruitment of a dedicated programme coordinator and commitment of host councils
  • A culture of inquiry and continuous improvement on the project
  • Strong cross-government partnership.

Australia – Queensland Regional Roads and Transport Groups (RRTGs)

The Roads and Transport Alliance brings together the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Local Government Association of Queensland and local councils to invest in and regionally manage the Queensland transport network. Each year, funding is made available through the State-wide Capability Development Fund (SCDF) for state-wide initiatives and for individual RRTGs and local councils to undertake research projects and access training courses to build their local capacity and improve road/ transport stewardship capabilities.

Australia – State Construction Levies

Western Australia’s Construction Training Fund (CTF) is a statutory authority established to ensure Western Australia’s building and construction industry can meet demand for skilled workers. It collects a levy of 0.2% on all construction projects valued above $20,000 AUD. CTF then return this levy to the industry via training subsidies, programmes and grants, reducing costs of apprenticeships, trainees and mid-career upskilling.

South Australia’s Construction Levy charges 0.25% on construction projects valued over $40,000 AUD to pay for training for construction workers, especially those in small and medium enterprises.

Themes and learning points

reference library shelves full of books with a desk in front
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Progress on workforce planning

Successful strategic workplace planning uses data and insight about the workforce to design and implement solutions: action plans typically need a mix of short-term ‘fixes’ and long-term sustained activities to ‘grow our own’ or expand the talent pool. This can be a challenge, particularly for smaller councils. HR in local government has also lost significant capacity and funding for workforce development during years of budget cuts. Despite this unfavourable backdrop, there has been progress internationally towards strategic workforce planning over the last decade.

Support for local councils that respects localism

Practical support on workforce planning/ development from sector bodies and partnerships between councils can aid the sharing of expertise and minimise duplication of effort, for instance through templates and toolkits. Support from national and state governments on workforce planning is most likely to be useful when it is decentralised and permits local autonomy. The most effective approaches involve local councils in the development of capacity building resources to ensure their relevance to different contexts, for example the issues facing metropolitan councils may be different from those in rural localities

Local councils can compete on public ethos and quality of employee experience

Competition with the private sector is a challenge, particularly on pay where there is a dominant industry in the locality, such as mining, petrochemicals or the tech industry, seeking skills that are in short supply. However, the case studies show that local councils can compete with the private sector as an employer, based on the variety of work experiences offered, employee experience and public service values. Reviewing these and listening to employees’ changing expectations sends a clear message that people are valued. However, as discussed in this LGC article, many private sector employers also now offer flexible working and better work-life balance which could erode some public sector advantages. Therefore, there is no room for complacency and local government needs to understand how the market is changing and respond.

Council workforce issues are part of a bigger picture

Labour shortages in local government should be understood in the context of the local labour market and wider economy. While local councils need to plan for their own specific challenges as an employer, they are also important actors in their local economies. Local authorities typically have responsibility for economic development, education and employment support in their localities: therefore joined-up working between HR and other relevant teams can reap benefits for both the council and the local labour market. Furthermore, collaboration between local councils, tiers of government, other agencies and industries can unlock innovative solutions and, over time, build a talent pipeline that benefits the wider local economy as well as increasing local government’s capability.

Local government can learn from the private sector on workforce planning and development. For instance, in key industries the private sector has made significant progress in recruiting from under-represented groups. The mining industry in Australia has been effective at reaching out to indigenous communities to provide education, training, jobs and economic opportunities and have set targets for expanding its indigenous workforce. As part of the UpSkill Houston partnership in the USA, the petrochemical industry has deepened its strategic links with community colleges (which primarily provide tertiary education for local people).

Technological innovation will inevitably impact on workforce and capability planning

Technology will open up new ways of working, whether in ‘outdoor’ roles, caring professions or knowledge-based jobs. Digital communication offers alternative and cost-effective channels for delivering training and development: the pandemic may have overcome (some) employees’ resistance to online/distance learning, teleconferencing and remote management.

The author would like to thank the LGA’s Workforce team and Workforce Planning Network for their contribution to this research.

Further resources

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Global Local

Read our latest Global Local Bulletin on local government workforce with more resources and original content.

Related LGIU briefings

The longer-term shift to hybrid working: Implications for local government (Australia)

DWP’s preparations for changes in the world of work (UK)

Beyond crisis: activating a diverse workforce in local government (Australia)

How will technology change health and care? (UK)

The shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic: opportunities and challenges (Australia)

The changing world of work: future work

Modern methods of construction (England and Wales)

Apprenticeships – the National Audit Office view on value for money (England)

The local government officer – is it time for a change?

Artificial intelligence in local government – opportunities and challenges


Useful resources

OECD Public Employment and Management – Workforce Development

Local Government Association (England) Workforce Planning support

Local Government Association (England) – Apprenticeship support programme

Improvement Service (Scotland) – About Workforce Planning

Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development CIPD (UK) Workforce Planning Factsheet

Public Services People Managers Association (UK) Let’s Talk Future Workforce

Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) (UK) – Local government: Skills shortages and workforce capacity

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (USA) – Workforce of the Future: Strategies to Manage Change

SkillsIQ (Australia) – Local Government Industry Reference Committee 2019 Industry Skills Forecast