South Africa needs bright, hard-working people in the public sector – are you one of them? We are currently suffering from a shortage of public sector managers, which means that excellent opportunities lie in wait for those choosing to pursue a career in this vitally important field.

The demand for public sector managers in South Africa

Tens of thousands of skilled South Africans leave our shores every year to find jobs overseas, creating skills gaps that need to be filled. Meanwhile, government departments on local, provincial and national levels are often understaffed, with important management positions left vacant.

The Department of Higher Education and Training highlights the need for public sector management employees in its National List of Occupations in High Demand: 2018. The list outlines occupations which have shown strong employment growth, are experiencing shortages in the labour market, or are expected to be in demand in future.

You will notice that the first three occupations on the list are General Manager Public Service, Senior Government Official and Senior Government Manager, and they all fall in the highest demand bracket . From this research it is clear to see that managers in the public sector are highly sought-after!

What do public sector managers do?

Public sector managers can be found working in government departments on local, provincial and national level, and also in state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Transnet and South African Airways. The scope of the role could include aspects of public finance, staff administration, project management and developing procedures and working methods. Through their work in ensuring that public programmes are managed effectively, these managers have the important role of protecting and improving the welfare of the communities they serve.

The nature of the job will vary according to the specific field you are working in. For example, public sector managers working in healthcare will need specialised knowledge of healthcare management, whereas government covers a wide spectrum of departments and functions, each with their own requirements.

How do you become a public manager?

If the idea of working within the public sector interests you, you could consider studying the Public Sector Management National Certificates at N4 – N6 level. Alternatively, you could look at national qualifications in the accounting and administrative areas of public management, as well as short courses that will prepare you for jobs at government departments and at local and provincial municipalities.

Whichever course you choose, it is important to note that most people won’t walk into a management position right after graduating – you will be required to first build up your knowledge and experience by working in the field and becoming an expert in your industry.

The South African government advertises dozens of vacancies in departments and provincial governments on the Department of Public Administration’s website. With a wide variety of departments and work sectors, you can apply for entry-level positions in an area that interests you or that you feel passionate about. Once employed, departmental staff have a very good chance of progression up the ranks, which could eventually lead to a management position. If you’re still busy with your public management course, then it may be a good idea to apply for one of the various learnerships and internships also listed on the website, which are ideal for building some work experience while studying part-time.

Click here to take your first steps towards a career in public sector management.

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