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Comparing IT Career in National Government VS Local Government

  • 09-04-2021 3:47pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 73 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R


    Good afternoon folks, I aim to spend the rest of my career in the public sector so I wanted to get some advice/opinions from people who have possibly worked in both national government and local government.

    I currently work in an IT Tech Support role (Executive Officer grade) within the Civil Service but I am highly placed on panels for IT Tech Support roles (grade 5) with a number of Local Authorities (County Councils) with more interviews upcoming, so I am trying to compare the two careers in order to decide if I should ultimately stick with the Civil Service or potentially keep applying for IT Tech Support roles with local County Councils.

    So far I have noted the following factors to be considered:
      SALARY: Both the Civil Service and County Councils have similar salary at the top of the pay scale (Civil Service = €51,851, County Council = €52,401) but the Councils tend to have a much higher starting salary at the bottom of the scale (€43,632 for a grade 5) compared to the Civil Service (€30,884 for an EO grade) so it would seem on paper at least that a career with a County Council makes more financial sense. County Councils operate on a 7-point scale (including two long service increments) whilst the Civil Service operate on a 15-point scale that also includes two long service increments. In the County Council it would take 10 years to go from the bottom of the scale to the top whilst in the Civil Service it would take 17 years to go from bottom to top. I'm currently on point 3 of the Civil Service EO Scale (€33,689) so it will take me another 15 years to reach the top of the scale, and even another 5/6 years just to reach the equivalent on the starting salary in a County Council. So from a purely financial perspective, this seems a bit of a no-brainer and a County Council would be a clear winner.
        ANNUAL LEAVE: Both the Civil Service and County Councils offer flexi-time, but the Councils offer 30 days annual leave entitlement at grade 5 compared to just 23 days for EO grade in the Civil Service. Both places probably have the exact same number of public closure days of around 13 days per year. So again on the surface at least, this would appear to be another obvious win for the County Councils. In fact I can't think of any public sector IT role with better holidays than a Local Authority, other than perhaps within the education sector e.g. Universities, Technology Institutes, etc.
          WORKLOAD: IT Support staff within County Councils seem to be expected to be more of a jack of all trades type, expected to support all area's of IT from 1st/2nd line helpdesk, to networks, to firewalls, to virtual servers, etc. Whilst the Civil Service has a range of sub-departments within IT for different areas such as a Networks departing who handles all networking queries, a server department, a data centre department, etc. So to my mind this can be viewed either as a win for County Councils in the sense that one would gain more experience and exposure to a far wider range of IT areas. Or it could also be viewed as a win for Civil service as less would be expected of you in terms of IT knowledge, which would possibly mean a less stressful working environment. The workload could be much greater in the County Councils, but it could also be much more varied compared to the Civil Service. I think either point could be argued here so this is a bit of draw.
            TRAVEL: Working in the Civil Service means having to provide IT Support across the entire nation, so it is feasible to have to travel all over the country to provide IT Support at different sites. Of course one can claim expenses for the travel but if working for a county council you would never have to do much travelling beyond that county in which you are employed. I personally would prefer less travel so would probably give the edge to County Councils here, although I can see how some might enjoy the variety of travelling to different sites across the country.
              PROMOTION PROSPECTS: Working in the Civil Service means you can transfer to any government department anywhere in the country, so you have the option of relocating or working for a different department without even having to interview. There are also regular internal promotion opportunities within the Civil Service. There would be no transfers between County Councils and any promotions would require a competitive interview process against external candidates. So for me this is one area where the Civil Service is a clear winner.
                TRAINING: The Civil Service also offer regular fully funded training opportunities to their staff, I am not so certain the same opportunities would be offered to staff at County Councils so again this is probably another win for the Civil Service. Although perhaps I am doing Local Authorities a disservice here, maybe they also provide their staff with plenty of training courses?
                  REMOTE WORKING: So far the Civil Service have been very good during covid in terms of offering staff the opportunity to work from home. I am hoping this option is here to stay even post-covid but it is difficult to predict a winner as some employers may favour/oppose remote working in future.
                    PERKS: Both places offer similar pension schemes, although the Civil Service may have the edge here with staff being able to join the Public Service Credit Union and join the likes of FORSA which gives members discounts on things like car insurance. Again I don't really know enough about the perks of both places to really make a call on this so perhaps some people with more experience might be able to shed some more light on this area?

                    Is there any other factors that I should be considering when trying to figure out the best future career path for myself here? I would be keen to get some insight and feedback from people who have maybe had similar experiences or who have worked in a variety of public sector areas e.g. Civil Service, County Council, HSE, University, etc.

                    Some people have told me the grass isn't always greener and that I would be crazy to even consider leaving a Civil Service career behind, given how difficult it can be to get a foot in the door. I know in my case I was on a waiting list for two years before I was offered my current post.


                  Comments

                  • Registered Users Posts: 74 ✭✭ ahnoyouregrand


                    I don't think you are comparing like with like. I'm fairly sure EO in CS is equivalent to Grade 4 in LA... salary starting points are much closer together. The analogous of the LA Staff Officer (grade 5) was abolished from the Civil Service a number of years ago AFAIK (it was also called staff officer).


                  • Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 4,617 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Mr. G


                    Responsibilities in the Civil Service at EO can vary quite a lot. Larger departments generally have ICT Divisions split up into separate teams. Depending on your HEO/AP, your duties and opportunities will vary quite a lot.

                    As for county councils, this will depend on where you go. Larger councils in cities will be quite different to the likes of Leitrim. The job specs will be generic so they can move you around.

                    Pay scales:
                    The Grade 5 would appear to be a slightly higher grade. The problem with these pay scales is that it is difficult to compare Public Service vs standard Civil Service pay scales.

                    Typically a Grade 5 in ICT LA will not have staff reporting to them. This is different to an EO.

                    Tbh, I always felt that the Grade 5 should be brought back to Civil Service. It’s difficult to retain EOs in Dublin.

                    Schemes:
                    Most LA’s will have Further Education, flexitime, shorter working year, career break schemes etc. Employee Assistance Service will be outsourced to a private company. If you read the job spec, they generally include summaries of schemes available.

                    LAs have arrangements for inter-council competitions. Depending on local arrangements, they may advertise posts internally, then inter-council and then external. It’s quite common for staff in LAs to progress within the same ICT division. Arrangements may vary from council to council. They occasionally advertise secondments etc. Bare in mind that councils will be more focused on themselves - they won’t want to lose staff whereas it’s quite common for transfers and mobility to occur in the Civil Service. Indeed it’s expected at AO for example. You will find HR in Councils to be a bit more “independent” as its run locally. As a result, many will operate slightly differently and some will be more efficient than others.

                    LAs and Education will all certainly have trade unions (Forsa/SIPTU).

                    Pensions and increments:
                    If you transfer to a LA you will bring your pension with you and should maintain any increments.

                    If offered a post, I’d suggest having a chat with your prospective manager to learn more about the role and the depts current plan before you accept. If you’re in the public service, pay isn’t going to be the major factor because you’ll never going to be a millionaire, instead look at a move strategically. For example, does it suit your lifestyle and your career interests? Will this help you progress to where you want to go?

                    You may find a transfer to another Dept or to a LA will help you learn more and gain more experience. My only advice is don’t look at it for pay, but consider how this works for you in the long term.


                  • Registered Users Posts: 7,698 ✭✭✭ BrianD3


                    County Council will likely be a dead end for your career. Lots of good people doing good work in shambolic working condition in the councils. However they won't get any credit for their efforts as councils are regarded as a joke by many in the civil and wider public service, let alone those in the private sector.

                    The closer you are to central government, the better. Better again if you are in Revenue.

                    The councils are a mess and at this stage it's hard to say whether it is a resourcing issue or bad management or both. Either way, this obviously isn't going to improve when the next recession arrives

                    From an "IT" point of view, look at many county council websites - ugly with broken links and 404 errors, spelling mistakes etc. Planning files not online even though they were provided with a system for doing so years ago. Look at the job vacancies page too - is the application form some poorly formatted .doc or .docx file, are they refusing to accept applications by email, do they want 4 printed copies of the form plus 4 of everything from your driving licence to your junior cert results. Alarm bells should be going off at this stage.

                    County Councils are best suited to people with few or no career ambitions who want to live in their local area and enjoy the generous annual leave. If you are a high achiever who wants to "do good" in one of these jobs you'll likely waste your time and burn yourself out.


                  • Registered Users Posts: 73 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R


                    I don't think you are comparing like with like. I'm fairly sure EO in CS is equivalent to Grade 4 in LA... salary starting points are much closer together.

                    So in theory if I was to stick with my current EO role in the Civil Service for another 5/6 years, I would eventually be earning the equivalent of the grade 5 LA role even though my EO workload would still be comparable to a grade 4 LA role.
                    Mr. G wrote: »
                    Typically a Grade 5 in ICT LA will not have staff reporting to them. This is different to an EO.

                    If you’re in the public service, pay isn’t going to be the major factor because you’ll never going to be a millionaire, instead look at a move strategically. For example, does it suit your lifestyle and your career interests? Will this help you progress to where you want to go?

                    You may find a transfer to another Dept or to a LA will help you learn more and gain more experience. My only advice is don’t look at it for pay, but consider how this works for you in the long term.
                    BrianD3 wrote: »
                    The closer you are to central government, the better. Better again if you are in Revenue.

                    County Councils are best suited to people with few or no career ambitions who want to live in their local area and enjoy the generous annual leave. If you are a high achiever who wants to "do good" in one of these jobs you'll likely waste your time and burn yourself out.

                    To be honest I am not an overly ambitious person, I know I will never earn millions and I don't currently have any desires for a managerial role. I don't mind a bit of project management, but I don't have much appetite for managing staff. Of course that outlook may eventually change if I was to get married and have children, but I am reasonably frugal so would probably just adjust my lifestyle in order to live within my means rather than chase a higher salary in a more stressful career. I have cared for a disabled parent for decades so I honestly have enough stress at home without looking to bring more stress into my work-life too. I envisage myself as the kind of person who would want to reach the top of my pay scale and would be quite happy and content with that. If I stick with the Civil Service, any potential promotion from EO to HEO will almost certainly require me to assume managerial responsibilities, but in a Local Authority I've seen grade 6 roles for IT Analysts and Project Leaders which are probably more about project management as opposed to people management.

                    I'm fortunate that my current Civil Service role has been allowing me to work from home most of the time, but if it wasn't for covid I'd be looking at an hour long commute every day which is far longer than I'd ideally like in the long term. And unfortunately I wouldn't be eligible to apply for a transfer to a different department in a closer location for another 2/3 years as I only have a few months service at this stage. And even then, there is probably no guarantee that a spot would be available for me to transfer to. But if I could land a role with one of the local county councils, my commute to the office would be 15-20mins which would cut down massively on travel expenses in terms of time and fuel costs. Perhaps if my Civil Service office had been based closer to home, then I wouldn't even be really consider other career paths.

                    And again I must confess the extra 7 days annual leave in a LA is a nice incentive over the Civil Service. Based on what 'BrianD3' has said above, it has me thinking now that perhaps I am the type of person that a council career would suit as I am looking for a relatively simple stress-free career with the work-life balance tipped more towards the life side of things.


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