PSC should introduce the concept of Public Service Trainee for a three-year period to young and bright professionals from different sectors. The recruitment will be on a contract basis and follow some modern methods
A complaint often heard in the civil service is that ‘quality’ people are not applying for the open competition vacancies of Public Service Commission.
One of the problems in Nepal is that young and qualified people are attracted to join INGOs and other development agencies, but these organizations rarely recruit fresh graduates.
The attraction for them with INGOs and other agencies is better pay, working conditions, etc. But in reality, government job also offers many attractions such as further study, immediate career progression, international posting, and also the authority to influence other sectors such as I/NGOs and private sector.
Most young and talented people are not applying for government posts.
Even those who show some interest in applying are not doing this because of several factors including a cumbersome recruitment process, lack of desire to be involved in public service for a long time and lack of awareness of the benefits of joining the public service.
This problem is compounded by the fact that the siblings of politicians, bureaucrats and private sector are mostly not interested to join the public service.
This has several implications. First, public service is not often getting the service of qualified people and the cream of the society.
Second, those who have good academic background in Nepal and abroad are also devoid of critical development experiences of working in the government which ultimately prepares them for more rewarding jobs in the future.
In the absence of system to encourage young talented people in the public service, both parties–the government and young people—are losing out.
Third, government is having severe problems of adequate staff at the local level such as VDCs and Municipalities which could be well addressed if young professionals are recruited in such places.
One stark truth is that the young generation may not be interested to pursue long term careers in the government but would like to get some years of experiences (like three years) to go for other jobs in Nepal or abroad.
In the same manner, PSC is also not keen to hire someone without rigorous recruitment process for long term employment in the public service.
Giving preference to young talent without going through the recruitment process for permanent employment is not a feasible option. So the possible solutions for win-win situations for both parties could be as follows.
PSC should introduce the concept of Public Service Trainee for a three-year period to young and bright professionals from different sectors.
The recruitment will be on a contract basis and follow some modern methods to assess aptitude and competency. After three years, they are free to leave the organization and go to other sectors, if they are not interested in public service.
But to join public service as a civil servant, they will go through the normal recruitment process. Since Public Service Trainees are recruited every year, there will be continuity in the process of recruitment for public service.
In the initial period of recruitment, these young professionals may require some short orientation on the public service governance.
However, having worked over 8 years with young professionals I think that they are quick learners and will be able to handle jobs effectively in a couple of months. There may be two sources for recruitment for this position.
One source will be through open invitation to all those qualified who will have to sit for some scientific test. Second option will be direct recruitment of professionals who have distinction or above in their Master’s level education.
Normally, one with Master’s level qualifications with high grades are generally better than those with low grades.
One could argue that one with good grading may not be attracted to join the public service, especially if they have spent considerable amount on education abroad.
Therefore, they are mostly working in private consulting firms and NGOs to gain the experience which prepares them for attractive jobs in the future.
So if there is an avenue to gain experience in the public sector, there will be much interest among young professionals to join the public service. Initially they are more interested to gain experience than earning a good salary.
This is the current scenario in Nepal. In order to implement the program, there should no precondition for experience. Those who are joining the program should be fresh university graduates keen to gain experience for a better future.
This could be a good model for improving the public service in Nepal and also providing opportunity to talented youth in the public service.
But the question is that it needs out of box thinking on the part of the government, especially Ministry of General Administration, Public Service Commission and most probably Nepal Administrative Staff College.
This may require some changes in the existing recruitment policy of the Public Service Commission. But with strong will and determination, this can be done and may be immensely valuable for improving the quality of public service in Nepal.
In the initial phase, it can be started as a pilot project in few ministries such as MoFALD, NPC, etc. Based on learning this can be expanded into other ministries as well.
Let’s hope the concerned authority will pay heed to this proposal beneficial for all parties.
Sigdel is the executive director of Foundation for Development Management (FDM) in Nepal.
A version of this article appears in print on July 13, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.
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