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Sunday, 3rd December 2023


The Sikhs have an excellent knack for public service as it is central to their culture and values

But, you will never become a millionaire working for government. And the jobs are all so bureaucratic. And political too.

This is a common myth about working in the public sector among ethnic minority communities. One reason is that in the countries and cultures where the migrants come from, the public sector is very unsophisticated, and often truly second rate. There is no clear career structure and pay and rewards are very poor. Morale amongst employees is very low.

In Britain, the public sector is very sophisticated and developed. Teachers are part of the public sector, so are doctors and there are lots of jobs in local government. There are grades and clear paths for promotion and progression. Training is provided, and often, this is of a very high standard. There is job security, and employee rights are respected and treated very seriously. In fact throughout the civil service, there is a very real push for ethnic minority applicants and participation. Did you know that there are Boards of Directors of many government organisations, and if you have relevant qualifications and experience, you could join these at a very senior level and shape public policy. Here again, ethnic minorities are being invited to apply with open arms. The charity Common Purpose has a wonderful campaign about this with excellent training opportunities called 'About Time'.

One of the joys of working for public bodies is that the values are not purely commercial. People are not in it for the money. You are likely to encounter people who are passionate about their work, keen to make a difference, and there are good resources and possibilities for you to do so and make a lasting impact.

So do not dismiss a public service career. Give it a serious look. Talk to people about it - network. Use the internet to contact people or organisations, and they will help you do your homework.

DID YOU KNOW - As a foreign office diplomat, you could travel the world with your family. And today, there are even British High Commissioners who are from ethnic backgrounds! As head of Community Cohesion in your local authority, you could make a real difference to improving the quality of life and harmony in your locality. You could be the person who decides on the writers who will be represented at your annual Book Festival in your County. As Cultural Services Manager, you can influence the way culture is supported and nourished in your neighbourhood. As Policy Advisor, you could shape public policy, actively.

Often, our cultural backgrounds give us a very high sense of civic values. We love to work for others, to serve them and to enrich the quality of their lives. By dismissing these opportunities as being 'second' rate, we are making a big mistake. Imagine being paid to pursue your passion? Life could not be more fun.

And yes, it is true that there can be discrimination in the public service, and a denial of opportunity. This is a very real problem, and the public sector is changing, albeit slowly. We can make a difference through public service - it would be a shame to dismiss it.

Article added on 22nd December 2009 at 10:07am