Sector swap: a smooth transition

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Changing jobs can be an anxious time for any employee, and this is amplified further in today’s unsettled employment market. Here, Mike Baxter,  explores TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment), a current concern for many school staff who are faced with transferring to the private sector.

Recent job cuts have prompted people to consider other options, perhaps even roles they would not otherwise have contemplated.

As they say, the grass is always greener.  Traditionally those in the private sector have believed that public sector workers have a good work-life balance with enticing benefits such as; longer holidays, less hours, a stress-free environment, and greater job security.  Equally those in the public sector often view private sector workers as having greater benefits; higher salaries and financial rewards, a more dynamic working environment, and better opportunities for promotion and progression.  In reality the ideal sector to work in depends very much on individual preference.

Whilst both the public and private sector are encountering their own set of issues, largely created as a result of the economic crisis, it is the public sector that is experiencing a significant reorganisation.  Attention has turned to how public services are configured and delivered.

As the country is slowly coming out of recession, it appears that the economy is on the road to recovery.  In fact, the recent growth in the job market is claimed to be led by the IT sector, which is welcome news for those of us who specialise in this area. 

Moving sectors
As a result of school building programmes, such as the recently axed BSF programme, schools, and local authorities have been expected to partner with a managed service provider for various aspects of their ICT.  Although the BSF programme has effectively been halted for those not yet at financial close, there will be future school building programmes in some form or another, but what does this mean for the existing school staff that manage the ICT? 

Staff responsible for the ICT in schools are invited to TUPE across to the managed service provider.  Although I did not personally follow the TUPE process, I did make the decision to work for a managed service provider, which has subsequently proved to be the best career decision I have made.

The TUPE route however presents an equally attractive prospect for many.  TUPE regulations safeguard and protect individuals who transfer from a school or local authority to a managed service provider, regardless of their length of service. 

Naturally there remains an element of apprehension and unease around the entire process.  A major concern for individuals is whether the conditions of employment change if a transfer is undertaken.  However, as an employee transfers, so too does their contract.  Apart from the change in identity of employer, all contractual terms and conditions including collective agreements such as pay scale progression for instance, remain the same. The only rights that do not transfer automatically are pension rights, but a recent change to the law means that the new organisation must now provide an equivalent pension.

When people hear of a potential change, many understandably expect the worse.  They think they are going to be overlooked in some way or even overburdened, and fear that they are not going to be consulted by the school or the managed service provider.

Some are concerned having invested time and effort in developing and implementing ICT in their school, that the service provider may effectively steal the glory, and change aspects that the IT manager has no control over.  Through working with a managed service provider it can take longer to make decisions and implement changes, however this is because it is a totally different way of working and there are processes that have to be followed.  Hence the importance of changing mindsets; people in this transition must be open to change.

There is also a concern with whether they will be doing the same job when the transfer is completed.  Individual detailed consultations about the role in the new organisation will occur leading up to the transfer period.  Many jobs will be, initially at least, replicated in the new organisation so individuals will undertake the same work after transfer. Of course jobs do change over time, especially in organisations that specialise in new technology which, as we all appreciate, develops rapidly.

Despite such concerns there are benefits.  Pay and conditions can improve, along with health and safety and pensions as the private sector often match existing terms.  Transferring to a new organisation provides the opportunity to work in an environment that uses the latest technology so existing skills and knowledge base can be developed.

There is a growing need for employees to be ready to adapt, and be flexible and focussed on delivering quality services. Change can be a bit of a worry, but through the BSF there are exciting and positive times ahead. There will be lots of opportunities to develop and learn new skills.

There may also be jobs with the managed service provider that offer more generic roles, where people get involved in more than one function. If you are going from a specialist role to a more generic one, full training and development will be provided to allow you to take on new challenges and skills. This will of course provide more opportunities for career development and, if you wish, the chances of promotion. 

All that is effectively happening is that as the job moves, the individual moves with it. It really is a positive move, rather than a reason for concern.

An invaluable journey
As someone who worked in the public sector for many years, and has recently made the leap, it has been a very positive and highly rewarding experience.

My career in the education sector started at an adult education centre where I spent 12 years in a technology role.  Staying in the education sector I then went on to work for a secondary school in Yorkshire as system administrator.  During the course of the subsequent five years, together with a colleague, I designed, planned and implemented the school’s ICT system focussing largely on the quality of workstations and the network infrastructure. 

My responsibilities were far ranging, and tasks varied from first line support to systems   development and implementation, and project management.  Unfortunately, however, I found that there was no career path and as I was the person  responsible for everything ICT related there was nowhere to move to.

I realised that the way forward would be to move into the commercial sector.  I reached the stage of recognising that I needed a career move; I needed an opportunity to specialise and progress further.

I discovered an interesting opportunity with a managed service provider, which I jumped at and subsequently secured.  With high hopes for my new career, I even decided to relocate, which is of course a major decision.  Since my move to work for Ramesys, acquired by Capita Group plc, my progression has been incredible.  I was recruited as an onsite lead technician, and in just 18 months have been promoted to regional team lead for the Manchester area.

My first role with Ramesys saw me working at the largest secondary school in Manchester, Wright Robinson College.  As the first BSF school to go live, it was a fantastic starting point.  I joined the college in the second year of the programme, which was a good time as it was still in the early stages. 

Now as regional team lead for the North of England, my role has changed significantly.  The work is certainly less technical and more managerial.  As line manager for a group of 16 onsite engineers who are currently placed across 8 sites including education villages with 10 more schools are expected to go live this September, it is a busy role.  I deal with their career development plans, training, and so on.

I have benefitted enormously from the move through promotion, and improving my skills and experience through exposure to a greater range of technology.

The greatest change for me is that through working with a supportive an encouraging managed service provider, I have been able to steer my own career path.  For me, remaining in the education sector was crucial.  The move from the public sector to the private sector has proved an invaluable sector swap.

Mike Baxter is the regional team lead at Ramesys, part of the Capita Group Plc

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