Why a tech career in local government could broaden your horizons? 

Amanda Whicher, Director of Hays Marketing and Technology

There has long been a need for tech professionals in local government, but the Covid-19 pandemic exponentially increased this demand. Digital and tech experts became critical to not only enable the workforce to work remotely but also to deliver vital services online to communities across the UK. Local governments had to rapidly pivot and move essential services online ensuring their communities were supported during Covid-19 restrictions. The pandemic has been a catalyst for organisations to rethink how they support communities, and we are now seeing a rapid increase and introduction of new services to enable long term efficiencies around Cloud Services, AI technology and redesigning services.

Pivotal technology skills needed in local government right now

With many services now operating online, the next challenge is improving the user experience and redesigning services to enable citizens to access the services they need seamlessly whilst getting the support they need in the fast-changing world we live in. Local Government is also a key driver behind creating smart cities and communities with a focus on ensuring the digital divide is combatted and everyone has access to the tools and technology they need for everyday life.

Data has become a driving force for all organisations and this is no different in local government where we have seen a huge uplift in data scientist roles to enable organisations to understand their data better and predict the changing requirements of technology and services required by communities across the UK.

As we move into the new world of cloud-based services, it has become a priority to ensure technology and data are protected and robust enough to deal with any potential cyber threats creating more demand for cyber security and cloud skills within the sector. Over the last ten years, technology has dated with some of the systems naturally coming to their end of life; and need replacing which is why local governments are undertaking big transformation projects to move to cloud based services. However, there is also a focus on creating user-centric services to better serve citizens. Cyber, data, and cloud have been key areas of recruitment over the last couple of months and the opportunities available for tech professionals to work in local government include:

  • UX/UI Designers, Service Designers, User Researchers
  • Cloud Specialists, Data Specialists, Cyber Security Specialists
  • Project Managers, BA’s
     

Tech in the public sector

The pandemic and the disruption it caused has led to many professionals revaluating what is important to them and to look for roles that enable them to give back to their community. Choosing to work in local government can give you meaningful and challenging work, where you can make a difference, building and improving communities.

When you opt for a tech role in local government, you’ll play a major part in improving the lives of local citizens. You’ll have a real impact on people’s day-to-day lives whether that is creating digital services that will help them access mental health services or things they need to do to run their everyday life; everything from benefits to social housing.

Opportunities and benefits to be seized

While some perceptions of local government being very traditional remain, the truth is the sector has dramatically transformed in recent years creating plenty of opportunities, challenges, and rewards for your tech career to flourish:

  • The size and scale of tech within the sector are vast - especially within each council (for example some London councils serve communities of 300,000+) which means you’ll have the opportunity to work on a large user base, enabling you to work on a broad range of technology and tech stats.
  • Complex, large environment – you could be working with authorities who have at a minimum of 7,500 employees working for them and an even larger number of people accessing their services daily, creating complex challenges from a tech and environment perspective.
  • Testbed for newer technology – local government often works with vendors like Microsoft, Oracle to trial new technology giving you exposure to vendor management and new technology before it hits the market.
  • Exciting projects – local government offers the opportunity to work on a myriad of interesting projects that you might not expect you could be exposed to. For example, you could be working on creating a smart city; analysing the technology all around us to determine what innovation is needed to create smarter streets to enable a smarter city to improve citizen’s lives.
  • Diversity of services – with the number of services being so broad and over 300 services underpinned by technology across various operations - from bin collections, council tax, housing, benefits, mental health to social care, you’ll be working across a breadth of landscape that is extremely varied which is ideal for developing your overall experience in tech.
  • Work benefits – you’ll receive a generous pension scheme and holiday allowance, along with flexible working options with some roles offering remote work for even greater flexibility.

Andy Snape Head of Technology at London Borough of Camden shares his views on the experience and background needed to work in tech in local government

Andy Snape made a conscious transition into the public sector securing a role as Head of Technology at London Borough of Camden after previously working for the private sector. Andy says “Camden’s approach to societal change resonated for me, and I was particularly inspired by their approach of using technology to transform lives for the better. I was looking for a new role that offered a real challenge, working with the latest technology and with significant scope to contribute to digital transformation.”

While specific tech skills are important for particular roles, it’s also about the cultural fit and that desire to want to drive something different and drive change that will help people’s lives. Many candidates that make the transition into local government, come from private sector backgrounds, and have that social purpose built into them.

Wanting to give back and make a difference in the community is a key attribute to hold, increasing your chances of securing a role in local government. As it’s a diverse and challenging environment, stakeholder management is also important as you’ll be forming partnerships with various people across the sector because there is a significant amount of shared working involved.

Andy is enjoying the scale of the environment and the desire to constantly challenge the status quo to identify ways to do things better, embrace innovation, and make a difference. “No two days here are the same. I’ve particularly enjoyed the collaborative nature of local government in London. The culture of sharing ideas between boroughs and collaborating to find solutions to common problems at scale adds an entirely different dimension to the role and something that you will only find in the public sector.”

For anyone contemplating a tech role in local government, Andy explains “Local government is going places and offers opportunities for IT professionals at a scale and scope that is hard to beat, helping to solve problems and deliver services that make a difference to our daily lives.”

Author

Amanda Whicher
Director of Hays Marketing and Technology

Amanda has worked primarily across public services within the local government over the last 5 years. Her role involves working with CDIOs and CIOs of organisations to support a range of transformation programmes and restructures to help reposition organisations, and reshape candidate experience to enable clients to get better access to the best talent.

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