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.
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."
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."
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.
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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