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Key gov department has up to 25% vacancies

Key gov department has up to 25% vacancies

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Key gov department has up to 25% vacancies


The Director General of Infrastructure, Housing and Environment has laid bare the recruitment issues in his department, which he says has up to 25% vacancies, and could affect their ability to provide some services.

During a Public Accounts Committee hearing yesterday, Andy Scate outlined how the department had struggled to recruit due to factors including the island’s cost of living, as the Chief Executive called Property Holdings vacancies "probably the single biggest risk” to implementing the island’s estate strategy.

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Pictured: IHE Director General Andy Scate said that 15 out of 54 roles in Jersey Property Holdings were currently vacant.

The admissions came amid questions about why the Government's Estate Strategy Implementation Plan had been delayed until as late as the first quarter of 2022, something attributed to both covid and staffing vacancy issues in Jersey Property Holdings, and the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE) department more widely.

Speaking about the issue, Mr Scate said that "one of our biggest risks at the moment [is] trying to attract people to come and do those roles for us," noting that 15 out of 54 roles in Property Holdings were vacant.

When asked specifically about IHE, he said: "We are probably at about 20-25% vacancy factor across IHE.

"Those do affect a number of professions. So for instance, we're currently advertising for 60 engineering roles within our ops and transport directorate.

"We're out for jobs in trading standards, environmental health and planning - but also we are seeing vacancies as well in the property field.

"And we're generally okay in the environmental field, but again some of the environmental specialists that we currently need, we're again out for specialist recruitment on those areas."

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Pictured: Mr Scate highlighted a need to train more people locally and create a "pipeline" of graduate workers.

He said that these specialist roles were "around some of the animal health and the Brexit related work we now need to pick up in terms of borders and movement of products and animals."

In terms of solutions to the issue, he said that they were looking to promote "the sheer opportunity that exists to grow... to leave school and grow your career in the Government."

He added that "I think trying to attract specialists from off island is increasingly difficult with the cost of living issues, especially around housing, but we are looking at specialist recruitment campaigns in those areas.

"So engineering would be one of those, we're looking at places that have direct air links into the island, we're looking to France to run our energy from waste plants because we've got some retirements in that facility - so we're looking under every stone so to speak."

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Pictured: Both Mr Scate and Interim Chief Executive Paul Martin cited the recruitment issues as being one of the key reasons why the implementation plan for the Public Estate Strategy had been delayed.

On recruiting specifically for Jersey Property Holdings, he said that the normal vacancy rate would be much lower and that "when we get into double digits that's when I get concerned about our ability to deliver services."

"With some of these professions, we will only be more successful when we've grown more school leavers into property surveyors and property professionals," and that "as long as we've got a firm pipelines of people coming into the organisation, then that's our solution in long term."

When asked how many graduates they had trained, he said that in IHE there was "quite a lot of different opportunities to enter," but that in "property we've certainly tried for 2 or 3 graduates, I don't think we've attracted anyone at the moment."

He said that they had to look "differently" at this with ideas like sponsorships and bursaries, citing competition from the private sector as a main challenge in recruiting graduates.

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Pictured: Interim Chief Executive Paul Martin called the recruitment issues "the single biggest risk" to implementing the estate strategy.

The issue around Jersey Property Holdings recruitment was also highlighted by Interim Chief Executive, Paul Martin, when asked what the most pressing reason for delays in the implementation plan for the Estate Strategy had been between vacancies and covid.

"I think both are relevant, probably going forward the more relevant one... is of the capacity issues we've got in Jersey Property Holdings," Mr Martin said.

He later added of these vacancies that "these are in significant areas, so I want the committee to be realistic and aware that we do have a significant level of vacancies in important areas.

"We cover those with agency staff or in other words with staff from outside the civil service from the local market, and we need to be careful about that as well, because we need to be alert to any possible conflicts of interest that might exist in that regard.

"So we are covering these vacancies, but that represents... I think probably the single biggest risk to the operationalising of the [estate] strategy."

It's not the only concerns around recruitment in the department raised this year - in July, Environment Minister John Young said how the Government's Target Operating Model had led to staff leaving.

"... we lost very experienced staff and we have ended up, I'm afraid, with a number of teams who are demoralised and feel very let down by the States," he said.

Furthermore, he warned that: "Unless we can deal with this staffing issue, there is a serious risk that affordable homes will be delayed. It is not just planning; our building control officers are also extremely dissatisfied and many have told me they are about to leave.

"These professionals are not just replaceable; they have a lifetime of experience. Who would want to come to Jersey anyway? We can't recruit because of our high housing costs and what we have done in terms of their pay, conditions and career prospects.

"We have a serious problem. I have put this at the door of the Chief Executive and the Council of Ministers. I think I am a bit of a lone voice and I don't know how to go forward."

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Posted by Dave Mathews on
The cost of Housing/Rents in Jersey is now having a dramatic effect on the Island's ability to not only attract people but keep people for jobs. Unfortunately this is the result of property market greed and a lack of foresight by the Government by only sitting back and doing nothing about it. .
Posted by Aston Francis on
It is hard to regulate free market/ set housing or renting prices. But the States should be able to offer a pool of decent quality accommodations at reasonable cost to engineers, doctors or nurses recruited from the UK or elsewhere, where we cannot find them in Jersey.
Posted by Teresa Guy on
They will just build more! It’s not the answer. We need to invest in people who are already here to ensure they will stay and not just bringing in more people which will push up the prices of everything. Come on. It isn’t rocket science!










A little unfair on locals Aston. They need to do this for everyone as they are all struggling. Please not just for newcomers!
Posted by captain sensible on
Costs are generally related to demand, as in the case of Housing and rental, population growth stokes demand. We still have no population policy. WHY
Posted by Keith Marsh on
This is a dreadful situation that the previous CEO and to a degree the Chief Minister have got us into.
The Jersey Civil Service, in not so many years ago, was a first class employer, taking the cream of school leavers.
Then Parker arrived with his fancy UK ideas, and the Service has gone down hill.
To repair the damage, TRAINING is a must and it has to be done. It makes life hard, but eventually the standards will improve.
PAY ~ A new Pay Structure has to be worked out, and yes it will cost more.
There has to be a CLEAR structure for anyone wanting to join a dynamitic forward looking Civil Service, where Local people can actually rise to the top and we will do away with importing high salaried senior roles.
Posted by Stephen Tompkins on
It is the same case with many areas within the States, government is not good at running things. This surely is abundantly obvious when one looks at other areas that were once government run and were subsequently corporatised. Andium running housing, Jersey Telecom now J T going from strength to strength. Jersey Post, once a lame duck and now flourishing. These are obviously just a few of the great successes, there are many others.
Whereas this may be obvious to some, it's perhaps not likely to be recommended by current managers as this is like Turkeys voting for Christmas. Incorporatised enterties have to make it work and live with life in the real world, not go winging to government that life is difficult for them.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
Oh please! The tired old mantra that only the private sector are able to run an organisation efficiently is absolute tosh. Most public sector organisations fail due to a combination of political interference and investment failures of which Jersey is a classic example!
Posted by Stephen Tompkins on
It would appear that my view on private sector perhaps running some things better is not shared by all. That could well be the case but it appears public sector is struggling in this instance. Private sector has to work, otherwise they lose the contract. Public sector can work but if they get it wrong, the tendency is to look or blame anyone or anywhere but themselves
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