Public Sector: Training is vital for future growth

In hard economic times, when budgets are under pressure, training and continued professional development have traditionally been at risk.

During periods of change it is essential that PR professionals share best practice and continue to develop their skills. Without a robust PR team, who will shape and communicate messages around 'change' and 'what it means for me?' Without keeping abreast of changes in the PR industry and presenting a strong business case for comms, hard won buy-in is compromised.

The blending of PR theory and practice, underpinned by the formal and informal networks that emerge from professional development, are essential armoury for any comms professional, before, during and beyond a recession. That is why the CIPR Local Public Services Group in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University launched Second Steps, the UK's first accredited postgraduate programme for local government PR professionals.

This was a risk in this tough economic climate, where 7,000 town hall jobs have already gone according to the Local Government Association. The uptake, however, has been strong, with delegates from unitary to district councils across the UK, proving there is an understanding that investing in professional development is essential to surviving.

The course was so popular that we will be repeating it again soon and expanding it to be of benefit to those working across all local public services.

This year also saw membership of the CIPR Local Public Services Group increase by 30 per cent. However, this figure is dwarfed by the potential membership from across local government, health, education, criminal justice and the emergency services.

The ongoing challenge is to create understanding of the benefits of continuous professional training, so our local public services communicators have the skills they need to play a full part in shaping how local public services are seen.

- Wendy Moran is a senior lecturer in comms, Manchester Metropolitan University, and a member of the CIPR Local Public Services Group.

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