By Daniel Hunter

The highly regarded graduate recruitment programme used by councils has the potential to drive up standards in town halls even further if take-up increases, a new report published today (Friday) has revealed.

According to the study from the Local Government Association, Solace Enterprises and iMPOWER, hiring more university leavers in the Local Government National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) will lead to greater development and innovation. In the long term, hiring graduates will also reduce staffing costs, when compared to bringing workers in from elsewhere, as well as providing young people with a vital step onto the career ladder.

The report found that on the scheme, the "calibre of the graduates is consistently high" and that they "tend to hit the ground running". NGDP has also proved successful in bringing in more women into councils, with them also performing better in the assessment centre stage. The scheme is highly regarded, featuring within the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and the Guardian 300.

Oldham Council employed four graduates over a three year period. They worked right across the organisation, on areas including waste, elderly care, customer services, delivered a wide range of projects, and identified significant savings for the council. They were able to "genuinely understand the breadth and diversity of the council's role", making them an invaluable resource of talented employees.

Councils are in a position to take on more graduates and the report proposes a series of options to help them achieve this, in spite of the difficult financial situation they face following budget cuts.

"Given the unprecedented cuts of 28 per cent which councils face, it is understandable that recruitment in the short term may have been reduced," Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of the Local Government Association, said.

"However, in the medium to long term, there is a strong case for graduate recruitment, as studies show that they can generate three times their salary.

"We need councils from right across the country to work with us to push the National Graduate Development Programme forward. I'm urging councils and their leaders with a sense of ambition and purpose to get in contact with the LGA before 16th April in order to get involved with the programme.

"To counter concerns about the financial climate in the short term, we're looking into a series of options, such as private sector placements, to assist with the funding of the scheme, and look forward to the opportunity to discuss these with councils."

Terry McDougall, Director of Resources, Solace Enterprises, said:

"At Solace Enterprises we see senior management talent all the time and understand that future talent depends on the investment we make today.

"We are delighted that there is so much support for the refreshed NGDP and urge both local governed and private sector partners to commit to recruiting future graduates."

Alex Khaldi, Managing Director, Local Government, iMPOWER, said:

"Councils with any level of ambition need to be thinking about their pipeline of talent. The research project has shown us that the NGDP offer is irresistible in this regard."

The report proposes a series of options for consideration, including:

- Placements funded by the private sector to reduce salary cost to the host local authority.

- A loyalty scheme for the recruitment fee, based on the number of graduates employed.

- A shorter scheme that would allow councils to take in talent for shorter periods at a lower cost.

- Opt-in elements of the scheme to enable councils to tailor them to their budget.

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