ISSUES & CHALLENGES: Federal employees accounted for 19.7% of Ottawa-Gatineau’s total employed labour force of 680,100 (as of September 2010). This proportion has remained unchanged since September 2009, as federal employment in this CMA has increased at the same pace as total employment. Job growth in the public administration sector has been quite strong. This has resulted in hundreds of responses to every public service job posting. However, recruitment is limited relative to the responses received because many public service positions require organization/Ministry subject matter knowledge so the barrier to entry is sometimes higher.
There are challenges in recruiting specific technical skills and in health sciences (the federal government has a large requirement for these skills), although it has been easier to attract high technology skills with the recent downturn in that sector. There is a dual challenge of hiring individuals with the core competencies and growing staff internally to accept positions of greater responsibilities and skills. Language training requirements persist, particularly in the administrative support positions.
Attrition in the public sector is fairly low, although there is mobility given the large government presence. The public sector is perceived as more bureaucratic, less innovative and offering less competitive salaries compared to the corporate sector, particularly by younger workers who seek advancement at a faster rate than older, more experienced workers.
The public sector is not a monolith. There are many multiple mini-labour markets within the public sector as each department and institute functions independently with regards to HR requirements. The skills, competencies and knowledge bases required vary quite a lot, and departments can range from tens to hundreds of employees.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: Recruitment options have to be looked at. It is important to attract younger workers, although this is still a challenge because of the bureaucratic nature of the sector. Also, initiatives to attract technical and health science skills are important.
There needs to be an investment in workforce skills: language skills (French and other languages as Ottawa and Canada’s population becomes increasingly multilingual) and cultural competency training have been highlighted as being beneficial in all workplaces.
Further, a recommendation has been made to conduct a research study on the many mini-labour markets that make up the public sector, so as to better understand the labour supply and demand needs.
The Sector Summary: Public Administration has been adapted from an earlier version of the Ottawa Labour Market Plan completed in March 2011.