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Graduates: Future leaders of the APS

Graduate recruitment programs remain a crucial source of new Australian Public Service (APS) employees who can make a valuable contribution to the APS. In 2015-16, 10.3 percent of all new engagements to the APS were graduates.

Agencies across the APS select and develop graduates with the capability and the desire to shape the future of public administration in Australia.

Long-term organisational capability is built across the APS by developing graduates who can support the current and future requirements of the APS. They are the APS leaders of tomorrow.

Graduates are not simply a homogenous group of young people who have recently left university. They are a diverse group of employees of all ages, with a wide variety of work and life experience.

Graduate gender and age, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

*NESB – Non-english speaking background
Source – APSED

Graduate age, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Graduates in the APS have a broad range of academic qualifications. Nearly one quarter of graduate respondents to the APS employee census reported law as their main area of tertiary study. The tertiary qualifications for the remaining graduates are spread across various disciplines.

Main focus of tertiary qualifications – APS graduates, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Engagement levels for current graduates are high across all four dimensions – job, team, supervisor and agency. Graduates report significantly higher team, supervisor and agency engagement compared to non-graduates.

Employee engagement by graduate status, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 4.

Former graduates also report higher levels of engagements across all four dimensions when compared to staff who did not enter the APS through a graduate program.

Employee engagement by entry to the APS, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 5.

Graduates have high ambitions for their career development, with more than half the current graduates in the APS aspiring to an Executive Level 1 position in the next five years. Nearly one fifth of graduates aspire to an Executive Level 2 or SES position.

Despite these aspirations, graduates are realistic about their likely career progression. Only 29 percent expect to be employed as an Executive Level 1. Most graduates expect to be employed as an APS 5 or 6 in the next five years.

Graduates – desired and expected classification in 5 years, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 6.

When comparing various measures of satisfaction from the APS employee census, graduates typically stand out from other classification levels due to much higher levels of satisfaction.

Graduates report levels of satisfaction with their monetary and non-monetary employment conditions that are significantly higher than their APS level and Executive level colleagues.

Satisfaction with employment conditions, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 7.

Graduates are much more likely to report being proud of their agency and to recommend their agency as a good place to work.

Satisfaction with agency, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 8.

Graduate development programs are a significant commitment and investment for agencies. To see a return on this investment, agencies need to ensure they are retaining graduates following the completion of the graduate programs.

Employee census data shows that nearly half of all current graduates want to stay working with their agency for at least the next three years. A further 40 percent want to remain with their agency for the next one to two years.

Graduates – intention to leave, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 9.

In addition to the training and development provided within their agencies, graduates have many opportunities to participate in graduate events coordinated by the Australian Public Service Commission. These events include graduate debates, presentations from agency heads, dedicated training activities and more innovative and practical activities such as #gradhack.

These tailored events build graduate knowledge of current APS issues and facilitate networks amongst graduate colleagues across the service. The events also help to build leadership skills and introduce innovative ideas and approaches that will shape more efficient and effective management practices.

The APS Commissioner has previously offered the following advice to graduates on managing a successful career in the APS.

►Watch people around you who are successful and apply their approach.

►Develop a broad interest in government as well as the area you are working in.

►Be true to yourself. Be astute. Have some resilience. Be keen to learn new things.

►Take opportunities to broaden your skills and gain new perspectives, both in or outside the APS.

►Maintain or develop outside interests and activities.

►Learn from mistakes.

►Think creatively, challenge the system.

►Be careful when using social media.

►Embrace change. Relish career challenges. Enjoy engagement in the big issues of the day.

►Be ruthless about your career choices. Maintain a work-life balance. Do not be weighed down by a sense of allegiance to stay where you are.

Last reviewed: 
3 July 2018