Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Raising the Ranks of Public Sector Leaders: Results of a National Survey of Executive Masters of Public Administration Programs

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Raising the Ranks of Public Sector Leaders: Results of a National Survey of Executive Masters of Public Administration Programs

Article excerpt


Faced with an impending demographic and cultural shift in the ranks of public service, government agencies, non-profits and private contractors for public sector are exploring ways to develop the next generation of public service leaders. Leadership development encompasses a diverse set of strategies ranging from informal mentoring to executive degree programs for experienced public service professionals. Yet there is scant evidence on the impact of these programs on developing effective public service leaders. The article presents the findings of the first national survey of executive degree programs offered by National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) for public service professionals and examines their role in leadership development in the public sector.

Public Sector's Demographic Shift in Numbers and Culture

The impending surge of retirements at all levels of government and the growth of a multi-sector workforce delivering and implementing public services is creating a demand for experienced professionals who can work for or with the public sector. Even though the retirement of public administrators is the most pronounced at the federal level, where it is dubbed the "retirement tsunami," public administrators at the state, county and city level are facing equivalent retirement realities due to the vast number of aging baby boomers leaving the workplace. At the federal level, by 2016 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management expects 60 percent of the 1.6 million Grade Schedule (GS) employees and 90 percent of 6,000 Senior Executive Service employees to retire. (1) More than half of the state governments may lose at least 20 percent of their workforces to retirement by 2010. (2) In a 2006 "Survey of the Profession," the International City/County Management Association found that over 60 percent of members are over 50 years old, implying an imminent loss of experienced city and county managers. (3)

The other key factor influencing the "who" of public administration is the growth of a multi-sector workforce in government. The line between public and private and even federal and non-federal is increasingly blurred. Private contractors and consultants are increasingly implementing public programs, non-profit organizations are delivering public services, and state and local government employees are paid with federal dollars to work on federal programs. In Paul Light's 2002 report on the "True Size of Government," he estimated that of the 16.7 million individuals working for the federal government only 11 percent were federal employees. A third of the federal workforce are contractors, another third represent state and local government employees working on federal activities and over 15 percent are grantees. (4) Light's most recent estimate is that for every federal employee there are three contractors. (5) The expansion of a multi-sector workforce is also having an impact on the non-profit sector that is increasingly delivering public sector services through grants and contracts. By 2016, the non-profit sector will need to fill almost 80,000 senior management positions annually as a result of growing number of non-profit organizations retiring and transitioning leaders. (6)

On the other end of the demographic spectrum Generation Y, representing the largest demographic population since the baby boom generation is surging into the workforce. Doing good, making a difference, serving public needs have become a mantra of this new generation, resulting in significant interest in working for the public and non-profit sector. (7) The combined result is the yawning of the "missing middle" in the demographic landscape of public sector workforce. These demographic shifts result in fewer public sector employees with the critical knowledge, experience, and leadership to successfully implement and manage public policy.

The sheer capacity gap is not the only challenge within the public sector. …

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