Graduate recruits unfazed by massive APS staff cull


Deep budget cuts may have cast a deathly pall over Australia’s public service but university graduates still want to work there.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) graduate program for 2015 was once again massively over-subscribed despite the demotivating announcement in the May budget that 16,500 public sector jobs would go by 2017.

The behemoth department, which employs around 33,000 people and is the largest government department, is coming to grips with the news that hundreds of Telstra staff are being sent into call centre services for Medicare and Centrelink by the end of October and the imminent outsourcing of the Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits scheme payments to the private sector.

This year DHS dealt with 1923 applications for its graduate program – similar to the number of applications received in past years  – with just 100 jobs at the end of the race. Once graduates complete the National Graduate Program, which means passing various compulsory components, regular performance reviews and probation, they are promoted to a permanent APS5 classification position with the department.

The plucky level of interest is, perhaps, still more surprising when you consider the arduous 10-step recruitment process.

To be accepted, graduates must undergo an 8-minute one-way video interview, written test, critical analysis testing, a temperament and personality assessment, group test and panel interview alongside medical, criminal, security and reference checks. The process began in June, offers go out in early October and graduates don’t start until February next year.

Perhaps applicants prefer the prospect of working for the Department . . . rather than being one of its clients.

Sydney University’s Careers Centre Manger Nitsa Athanassopoulos said public sector graduate recruitment programs were “still attractive”.

“They’re still getting a lot of applications mostly because graduates are really interested in the kind of work the government departments offer,” Ms Athanassopoulos said.

“I think they realise it’s competitive but you can look at the private sector and it’s difficult there too. Students understand that they’re coming out into a pretty difficult labour market at the moment.”

Graduates also like the fact that programs often moved people around the department so they could follow their interests working on different projects.

Ms Athanassopoulos said graduates were unikely to be phased by the length and complexity of the recruitment process because it was similar to that of other government departments and big corporations.

The DHS graduate scheme has two pathways: the generalist pathway, which was the most popular this year, and the Professional Pathway which includes communication, allied health, finance, human resources, ICT and law which means graduates with all kinds of degrees can apply.

Eighty-seven of the positions are Canberra-based but a few are in remote areas of Northern Australia or other cities like Melbourne or Sydney. The DHS website advises graduate hopefuls to be ready to relocate to Canberra.

The lucky 100 graduates who make it through the DHS recruitment bootcamp begin a 10-month program with on the job training, a senior mentor, graduate buddy, flexible working, super and sick pay on a program that DHS promises will be: “an amazing and rewarding experience that will stay with you forever”.

Ms Athanassopoulos said she understood that at the end of the 10-month placement the best of the program’s graduates were considered for more senior roles, while the remainder continue to be rotated around the department.

“That’s what makes it (the graduate program) so competitive. They are looking for people who they can bring in, find their feet really quickly and perform well, do the rotations then go for internal vacancies that come up.”

DHS spokesman Hank Jongen said the National Graduate Program aimed to attract the best and brightest applicants that will become our future leaders and technical experts.

“Our program offers accredited learning, exposure to the department’s front-line service delivery operations and excellent access to senior level staff,” Mr Jorgen said.

“Many of our past graduates are now leaders in the department.”

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2 thoughts on “Graduate recruits unfazed by massive APS staff cull

  1. I suspect the real reason for the popularity of the Department of Human Services’ Graduate Program is that it’s the only thing you can do with a Bachelor of Arts Degree …

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