Local government is the collective term for local councils. They can also be referred to as local authorities. Councils provide a wide range of services, eg education, housing, and environmental services within designated regions of the UK. Stats from the National Graduate Development Programme website:
- There are 433 local councils in the UK (353 in England, 22 in Wales, 32 in Scotland and 26 in Northern Ireland)
- Local government employs over two million people – one of the largest employers in the UK
Working in local government offers entrants the opportunity to work nationwide, in a wide variety of roles and in a setting where their work makes a real difference to people’s lives. The next few years will be a challenging period for many local authorities in the UK as the changes brought about by the current government's measures to reduce the national budget deficit are implemented. Councils will face almost £10 billion of cost pressures by 2020 [Source: Local Government Association]. Despite funding cuts, jobs are still available for graduates in this sector.
Local Government attributes/skills profile
|Key attributes/skills needed for the role||Where you could develop these skills or attributes while at university|
|Knowledge of public service and challenges facing it
||Keeping up to date through the media.
|Strong communication & interpersonal skills
Many of these skills you will develop through your academic studies and extra- curricular activities.
CEED offers courses on these kinds of skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum
|Ability to organise time and work methodically whilst paying attention to detail
|Leadership qualities and effective team working skills
||Using the the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel
Nature of sector or roles
Local councils are some of the largest employers in the UK and deliver a huge range of services to local communities (there are approximately 600 plus different occupations represented). Each local council will have its own specific requirements.
Roles in local government are grouped into six themes: building your community (architects, building surveyors, building engineers, housing officers, council tax), caring for your community (social care officers, social workers), educating your community (librarians, teachers, careers advisers, counsellors, therapists), entertaining your community (leisure centre staff, arts administrators, museum curators, events coordinators), protecting your community (environmental health and conservation, trading standards, highway maintenance, waste management and town and country planning) and supporting your community (administration, finance, HR, marketing, PR, policy and research).
A local government officer responds to the administrative needs of individual departments, assists in the development of policies and procedures, and helps to co-ordinate their implementation. Have a look at the Prospects definition of this role.
Councils are increasingly innovating and changing the way they work, which makes it an exciting time to join them as an employee.
Networks - why and how to use them
Connecting with University of St Andrews alumni already working in this sector is a great way to make contacts, gain an insight into what's happening in the sector, and in some cases alumni can become valuable mentors.
Local government roles currently held by St Andrews alumni include: Operations Manager of Community Safety, Support Officer for Planning and Performance, Operations Officer for Recycling Centres, Corporate Communications Manager, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Community Learning and Development Manager and HR Business Manager. Sheffield City Council, Leeds City Council, Fife, Perth and Kinross Council and the City of London Corporation are some local authorities employing University of St Andrews alumni
- Saint Connect - The Careers Alumni Network for St Andrews where you can make contact with alumni, get industry news, participate in discussions, and search jobs. Find out how to use Saint Connect by viewing the 'Video Tour' (bottom right-hand side of Saint Connect screen).
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool - this feature shows the career paths of 30,000+ St Andrews Alumni. By using the search field "local government", you may be able to make contact with alumni working in this industry. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource.
How to gain experience/internships
Naturally, if you have had some experience whilst being a student, your insights into the work and chances of getting a job in local government after you graduate could be improved. At present there is no national work experience scheme for local government, so you will need to approach your local council directly to request a visit or opportunity to work-shadow the area of work that interests you. Many authorities may also have temporary work opportunities; contact the Human Resources department to enquire and register on their temporary jobs email lists. Use a Local Council Directory to find contact details.
- Some councils may occasionally offer a range of paid and unpaid work experience programmes. Examples include:
- Attend UK Govcamps for those with an interest in how digital technology is used in the public sector also a great opportunity for networking.
- Try to get experience relevant to the area that you are interested in, even if it means working for another kind of organisation. For example, if your interest is in social care, think about working with young people. It may be possible to find work experience in a variety of fields such as environmental work, administration, youth work, finance, etc. without it necessarily being within local government. Visit Careers A-Z for detailed information about some of these career areas.
- Don't limit your work experience to vacation time - being involved with voluntary projects alongside your study will improve your skills base and make you more competitive when you come to apply for a job. Organisations such as the SVS and Fife Voluntary Action may be running projects which interest you and which will provide evidence of your motivation for making a difference to people's lives.
- Develop transferable skills such as communication, organisation, team work, project management, people and resources management by joining the committees of student societies. This kind of involvement will also give you good examples of evidence for 'competency-based' applications and interviews.
- Adopt an Intern offers paid graduate internships in Scotland, some of which are in local councils and other public sector organisations.
- Work experience in other public sector bodies and charities shows similar work values and motivation
- Find an internship - Gov.uk has replaced the Government's Graduate Talent Pool
How to get a (graduate) job
In general, local authorities recruit separately, and many advertise their vacancies only locally. So, if you are sure about the geographical area in which you want to work, look at the vacancy bulletin produced by the local authority in that area and register to receive their online job listings. You will find a copy in most public libraries, or you can obtain one direct from the council’s HR department. A particularly useful site to identify councils in the UK is to use the Council A-Z website.
The graduate scheme, The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) operates in England and Wales. The NGDP is a two-year graduate management development programme, run by the Local Government Association. At present, there is no equivalent to the NGDP in Scotland, but you can access a searchable database of all Scottish Councils' vacancies at myjobscotland. Some councils may have their own administrative schemes but also consider starting in a low level post and look for opportunities for advancement; almost all councils promote from within. Each council has its own myjobscotland jobs twitter feed too. Here potential candidates can sign up to the latest jobs in those councils so that they are added to their Twitter feed.
Some councils are developing individual graduate training programmes in many different occupational areas, as well as general fast-track schemes in management. Examples include:
- The LinkedIn group Opportunities Local Authority and Local Government Jobs has information on career events and discussions on finding work.
- Check the following key websites:
- Occasional local government vacancies:
- You may also find local government vacancies in publications specific to the roles that you are interested in. Have a look at Careers A-Z for a list of relevant career areas. Specialist trade journals are worth consulting, especially if you have a skill, professional qualification or experience, or possibly for training positions.
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
The application and interview procedures for a council which runs a graduate scheme is likely to be much more formal than for an entry-level role, and may include some (or all) of the following stages:
- Online application
- Selection Tests
- Telephone Interview
- Assessment Centre
Check council websites as many provide details on their recruitment and selection processes.
The Careers Centre has a wealth of advice on the application process.
National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP)
The NGDP recruitment process consists of: an application form followed by candidate testing and assessment centre(s). The final stage is council ‘best fit' interviews. Further details on the NGDP website.
Relevant Postgraduate Study
Whether or not a relevant postgraduate qualification is required will very much depend on the type of role for which you are applying. The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) does not require a postgraduate qualification.
Some councils may provide you with the necessary professional training while you work. Suffolk County Council, for instance, states on their website that they will provide funding up to £5,000 to undertake professional training or postgraduate qualification, in conjunction with your specific placement.
If, however, you have a particular professional career in mind with a local authority (eg Teacher, Town Planner, Social Worker, Environmental Health Officer), you will have to consider relevant postgraduate study or have additional work experience to qualify for these kinds of posts.
Contact councils to get their views on undertaking postgraduate study before committing yourself to considerable expense.
Key UK links and resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
Related Careers A-Z web pages
Professional Bodies & Trade Organisations
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.
Internships in the US - Government
This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point.
- Armenian Assembly of America - Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program gives college students of Armenian descent an opportunity to gain exposure to the policy-making process in Washington, D.C. for eight weeks each summer. Unpaid Internships. Participants must attend an extensive list of evening lectures and Capitol Ideas meetings throughout the summer.
- Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies offers eight-week paid summer internships in the DC area for current college students and recent graduates to experience American politics and public policy. Interns are placed on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies, or with local non-profit organizations to explore future careers in the public sector. Provides stipend and complimentary round trip flight.
- Center for California Studies - Capital Fellows Program offers graduate, postgraduate and mid-career applicants an opportunity to engage in public service, while actively contributing to the development and implementation of public policy in California. Fellows work for 10-11 months as full-time employees of a legislative, executive, or judicial branch office. Offers health benefits and a monthly stipend of $1972.
- City Hall Fellowship offers 12-month paid post-college fellowship to recent graduates and post-graduates which integrates hands-on experience working within the highest levels of local government with intensive training in how cities work. Begins August 1 and runs through the end of July
- Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS): administers internship programs to introduce college students and recent graduates to public service. Through the Urban Fellows Program, and the Public Service Corps, college students/recent graduates receive valuable work experience in exchange for academic credit or stipends, depending on the program.
- City of New York Summer Internships offers hundreds of paid and unpaid internship opportunities in agencies throughout the City. Open to graduate students who are currently enrolled or accepted into a graduate program and undergraduate students who are enrolled in college or university. Application deadline: January to May.
- The Urban Fellows Program offers nine-month fellowship which combines work in Mayoral offices and City agencies with an intensive seminar series that explores current urban issues impacting public policy. Opens to recent graduates (graduated no more than 2 years). Provides a stipend of $30,000 and Health Insurance coverage.
- The Illinois Governor JB Pritzker's Office offers fellowships and internships for college and graduate students as well as college graduates to experience first hand the inner workings of state government.
- Minority Access-Internship Program is designed for talented undergraduate and graduate students experience the diversity and scope of career opportunities available in the federal government and other entities. The program provides students with the opportunity to merge academic theory with practical application in the workplace.
- National Conference of State Legislatures offers various paid and unpaid opportunities to undergraduates, recent graduates, and postgraduates.
- Presidential Management Fellows Program is a two-year flagship leadership development program at the entry level for advanced degree candidates. It is designed to develop a cadre of potential government leaders and is ultimately encouraging a career in the government. Fellows receive full salary, benefits, partial loan repayment and the opportunity for accelerated promotion.
- White House Fellows is one of America's most prestigious programs for leadership and public service which offers first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government. Selected individuals typically spend a year working as a full-time, paid Fellow to senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Applicants must have completed their undergraduate education and be working in their chosen professions.
- White House Internship Program Unpaid position and is open to undergraduates, postgraduates, and recent graduates (within two years of graduation). Must be a U.S. citizen
Members of Congress
- Mike Enzi, US Senator for Wyoming An internship in Washington, D.C. provides students with many practical and educational opportunities to participate in the daily operation of a Senate office and to observe first-hand how the legislative process works. Priority is given to students from Wyoming, or those studying in Wyoming, who have achieved at least sophomore status at an accredited university or college. Students in all areas of study are welcome to apply. Offers a stipend of $1,600 per month to help defray the costs of living in Washington, D.C.
- Patrick Leahy, US Senator for Vermont Internship opportunities available to college students with an active interest in government in the Burlington, Montpelier, and Washington, DC offices. Interns work part-time during the fall or spring school semesters or full-time in the summer. Each intern will be given a variety of tasks, including researching legislative issues, drafting letters and memoranda, attending hearings and briefings, and performing general administrative duties.
- Susan Collins, US Senator for Maine provides successful candidates with the experience of working in the United States Congress and an overview of how a Senate office and staff work for the Senator and for the constituents. Interns are assigned to work with the Senate office staff who are responsible for the legislative, administrative, and communications operations of the office. Internships are available on a fall/winter, spring, and summer basis in Washington, D.C. and all six state-based constituent service centers.