Help on Its Way to Boost Quality HR; Public Sector People Management Gets a Professional Boost from an Organisation Focused on Boosting Services Provided. Sarah Richardson Finds out More

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Byline: Sarah Richardson

THE incoming president of the organisation which serves and represents professional interests of members who work in human resources within the public sector has identified upskilling the workforce as one of his key drivers.

Dean Shoesmith, who will also continue in his role as joint executive head of human resources at the London boroughs of Merton and Sutton during his year-long tenure as president of the PPMA (Public Sector People Managers Association), believes it's "a national tragedy" so many adults in and on the edge of our workplaces lack the basic skills to progress.

"We don't discriminate against people on the basis of their age, gender or race and yet those who haven't had access to the education they need are not included and helped in the ways they could be," he says.

"An additional conundrum is the prospect of large swathes of the British working 'baby boomer' generation retiring by the end of the 2020s, leaving a skills gap."

The PPMA represents and serves the professional interests of its public sector people management members, providing them with continuing professional development, knowledge and information, a network/forum -- and advice for raising professional standards in people management.

Formerly known as SOCPO, the PPMA influences and contributes to the development of public policy and legislation in this respect, constantly advocating the need for higher standards of people management and development to further enhance the delivery of public services.

"The membership is mainly drawn from local government but there are also members from the police, fire and rescue and the civil service," explains Shoesmith.

"The context of the world recession, these significant skills shortages, the demographic time bomb and public sector service retrenchment signifies some of the most testing times ever ahead for the UK's public sector HR practitioners. I'm also passionate about ensuring that those working in HR have the skills to help them deliver a challenging new agenda.

"It could involve combining IT function and support, legal or other expert advice between one or more local services providers."

Shoesmith's joint appointment across two south London boroughs shows how he is walking the walk on shared practice and the so-called "Total Place" agenda.

Having joined Sutton eight years ago, Shoesmith's involvement with Merton started as a secondment and on an informal basis. But it proved to be a success and in the year 2008 it became a permanent arrangement.

"It's a unique arrangement in the country," he points out. "I think there would be an appetite for creating more roles like this at different levels but, in practice, it's extremely complicated to do because of current employment legislation.

"It's an area that all political parties should look at in order to try to make efficiencies like this easier to deliver after the election."

The PPMA 2010 conference, which takes place in London today and tomorrow with the theme The Global Skills Race, seeks to meet these daunting issues head on.

"Never before have public sector HR practitioners faced such professionally overwhelming conditions -- and never before has a PPMA conference been so thematically relevant to that context," says Shoesmith. …