The federal bureaucracy is expanding its graduate ranks after last year’s intake dropped to the lowest level in a decade.
Almost all of the Australian Public Service’s 10 biggest employers have hired more grads for the coming year than in 2015, when the Abbott government’s tight limits on recruitment were still in place.
The turnaround is welcome news for the ACT, where the unemployment rate had grown relatively quickly in recent years and the property and retail markets have been sluggish compared with elsewhere in Australia.
Most of the grads are moving to Canberra this month and will begin their career in February, though some larger departments and agencies will base the new staff interstate.
Last year’s APS graduate program recruited fewer than 1000 employees for the first time since 2005. The intake had shrunk in seven of the past eight years.
The lack of opportunities were due to cumulative “efficiency dividends” (annual cuts to agencies’ administrative budgets) under the Gillard and Abbott governments, as well as strict controls on recruitment in the two years after the 2013 election.
Yet the leaner times appear to be ending.
The Bureau of Statistics has almost tripled its intake and will hire 121 grads this year. A spokeswoman for the bureau said it was the result of a recent $250 million investment to improve the way the bureau collects and manages data.
“Many of these new graduates will play an important role in assisting with this transformation over the next five years,” she said. The recruits will also be placed in the teams co-ordinating this year’s census.
The Treasury put its entire graduate scheme on hold two years ago to cope with the then Abbott government’s funding cuts. However, it has almost doubled this year’s intake, which will increase to 41 staff from 22 last year.
Other departments that are significantly expanding their schemes are Social Services, Industry and Health.
The vast majority of grads are aged in their twenties, though just over one in six of last year’s intake were 30 or older.
They undergo a rigorous selection process pitting them against tens of thousands of other applicants.
About one in five have a master’s degree or a PhD. Their income varies depending on their workplace, but the median grad last year had a base salary of $60,160.
Health Department secretary Martin Bowles said APS grads were among the country’s most promising employees.
The graduate scheme “has enabled departments like ours to invest in the best and brightest to help deliver sound public policy, shaping both the APS and the nation itself,” he said.
“An important focus of the program is helping graduates understand where they fit in the bigger Health picture.
“They need to recognise that, no matter what work they are doing, all are contributing to the health and well-being of Australians. All are making a difference.”