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The leading voice for excellence in public finance

Thought Leadership Thursday

Questions Answered: Public Finance Workforce Study

Catherine Seat

Thought Leadership Thursday Article

Questions Answered: Public Finance Workforce Study
June 17, 2021
Communications Director
National Association of State Treasurers

Dear NAST Members and Supporters:

We are taking a different approach to the Thought Leader column today. As the "new" Communications Director at NAST (I’ve been told I can use that term for a year!), I wasn't familiar with the impetus for the soon-to-be released Public Finance Workforce Study that the NAST Foundation will be releasing in a few weeks, so I sat down (virtually) with my colleague Kari Arfstrom, NAST’s Deputy Executive Director for Learning, to learn more.

Also, this past Monday, Treasurer Wooden presented a #TMTS2021 session titled "How to Prepare in Advance for a Silver Tsunami" where he gave us a sneak peek at this groundbreaking report.  In case you missed it, here is a link to the on-demand video. #TMTS2021 registration is not required to view the session.  You will hear more about this report over the coming months because it will be a bedrock document as NAST and the NAST Foundation draft their new strategic plans.

Here are a few takeaways from my conversation with Kari about the Public Finance Workforce Study:

Catherine: Kari, remind me how did this report come to be?

Kari: Welcome aboard, Catherine! We are a small but mighty team here at NAST and it’s great to have you!  As to the motivation of this report, we have all heard anecdotal reports for many years about the challenges public finance offices face in terms of staff recruitment and retention as well as ongoing and potential retirements. We decided to test these assumptions with real-time data. As you’ve heard Shaun say many times - "we’re a data-driven organization."

Catherine: What were some of those assumptions?

Kari: For example: the "brain drain" is hindering operations, it’s hard to find entry level staff with relevant degrees, low salaries are an obstacle when compared to the private finance sector, there are too many various skills sets to recruit and retain staff, and that the private sector draws away potential new employees.

Catherine: And are those assumptions reality or myth?

Kari: A bit of both. The "silver tsunami" is real; over 60% of public finance sector employees are age 45 or older. While I don’t want to steal the thunder from the actual study, we can report that there are some data points that surprised us a bit, including career entry requirements as well as salaries. The public sector offers lower barriers to entry for early career staff in regards to educational attainment and salaries are on par with the private sector. Being able to tap into an early talent pipeline will help with the pending tsunami. Finally, this report does an excellent job of laying out career pathways that individuals can take within the public sector to advance.

Catherine: When can our members and supporters read the full report?  I’ve been able to see a sneak peak but I am sure our members are eager to learn from the report.

Kari: Our plan is to launch it in mid-July so be sure to keep an eye on this newsletter for that announcement. We’ll have plenty of webinars and other outreach activities to introduce the data in the report. We will release a micro-webpage with the report, a number of appendices and the raw data sets on the NAST website. The researchers from the consulting firm who helped us with the report (Burning Glass Technologies) will keynote a working session at NAST’s Annual Conference in September in Chicago so be sure to register when it opens in early July.

Catherine: Thanks, Kari for this sneak peek. I know we’ll have a lot more to discuss once we release this important report in a few weeks.

I hope this interview gave you more insight into this new report coming soon to computers near you. The report will be impactful not only for NAST but for each treasury office as they utilize the information to continue building a model for success in terms of employee recruitment, retention, and professional development.


Catherine Seat
Communications Director, NAST

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