Poor pay and conditions are constant cries of complaint from teachers, nurses, social workers and the police.
Is it any wonder then that essential public services are faced with a staffing crisis?
Few people are willing to cope with the strains and stresses that these jobs present.
Yet it is those ordinary people that government-funded recruitment campaigns are meant to target. And the word ‘target’ is crucial. It is questionable whether the television and poster campaigns normally associated with mass-market brands do the trick.
The Home Office’s police recruitment TV ad campaign, which features celebrities such as Lennox Lewis talking to camera about the challenges of policing and ends with an empty chair and the line ‘Could You?’, has come under fire for, arguably, failing to target effectively. M&C Saatchi, the advertising agency responsible for the campaign, last week hit back at critics by taking out ads in the trade press that presented statistical data which went some – but not all – of the way to prove otherwise.
But if the Government is spending more than £25m a year on general recruitment campaigns there should surely be no doubt over the merits of the investment. Especially as the figure is merely the icing on the cake. Do not forget the efforts – and salaries – of the regional recruitment personnel attached to each of the essential services. There is also the fact that once the staff have been recruited the Government has to foot their training bills – bills which may or may not be repaid in loyalty. And who can blame those lured into careers that do not always live up to the glossy ads for leaving? The ads may spell out some of the grim realities of the careers concerned, but those signing up to essential services on the back of them maybe be forgiven for thinking that they as individuals will be the subject of public adulation. Any thoughts of being a hero and a publicly revered figure, however, must surely be knocked out of new recruits as soon as they encounter their demoralised colleagues, who have had to endure years of poor wages and staffing levels.
It is not clear how many potential recruits sign up to the public services on the back of the recruitment campaigns alone and therefore it is difficult to judge just how effective they have been. And, as any brand marketer knows, it pays to target your potential consumers. Perhaps essential services should abandon mass-market TV ads in favour of a grassroots approach. That may mean offering monetary incentives to sign up to those that have already sampled life at the coalface as volunteers and have decided that the essential services are for them. But in order to secure their loyalty, any welcome bonus will have to be backed up by ongoing management support, a rewarding pay structure and investment in the service itself.